Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a serious set of eye conditions that can affect quality of life and, in some cases, can irreversibly steal one’s vision altogether.

It can impact people of all ages but typically skews to those above 40, affecting 2.7 million Americans in this age category alone.

Social media has become a place where experts and patients alike share valuable information about glaucoma. What is being shared?

Search Trends

The Trends Section provides an overview of some of the most recent and relevant topics that relate to particular health conditions.

It features a selection of the topics that have the fastest growing Google search interest across the last three months, and reflects the inquiries of patients, healthcare providers, scientists, and others who are invested in the topic.

This is valuable to understand people’s interests and concerns at the present moment, and often include the U.S. states that have the highest interest in a topic. 

Quilt.AI brings these trends to life through an analysis that incorporates both cultural and scientific lenses.

What top selling drugs for Glaucoma are trending on search?

What's trending on search for Glaucoma?

Search interest for normal-tension glaucoma grew by 66% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

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1. Normal-tension glaucoma

Search data reveals that there has been a steady increase in interest for normal-tension glaucoma across the past three months. The majority of these searches came from the states of New York, Florida, Texas, California and Pennsylvania. There are different types of eye problems that fall under the ‘glaucoma’ group of eye diseases, but they all result in damage to the optic nerve (which connects your eyes to your brain to facilitate sight) and can lead to irreversible vision loss or blindness. 

In most cases, this optic nerve damage occurs as a result of abnormally high intraocular pressure (IOP). In the case of normal-tension glaucoma, the IOP is in normal range and the optic nerve damage is caused by certain medical conditions that cause low blood pressure or a hereditary predisposition to the condition (it is more common among those of Japanese descent). Treatment for normal-tension glaucoma is aimed at halting its progression, and still involves the reduction of IOP through medication or surgery to alter the course of the disease.

2. Simbrinza

Search interest for the eye medication Simbrinza grew over the last three months, with the states of Connecticut, New Jersey, Virginia, Florida, and Washington showing the most search activity. 

Simbrinza contains two medications (brinzolamide and brimonidine) that work to reduce the amount of fluid within the eye, thus reducing the intraocular pressure (IOP) and associated risk to the optic nerve. It is indicated for use in cases of open-angle glaucoma, the most common form of the glaucoma. In this condition, pressure in the eye increases gradually due to the the eye’s drainage pathway (the trabecular meshwork) being partially blocked, which causes pressure in the eye to gradually increase. This pressure can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve. Open-angle glaucoma happens slowly and without pain, so vision might be lost before one is aware there is a problem. 

Simbrinza is administered in the form of eye drops, and is only available as a brand-name medication. It is a preferred glaucoma treatment among those with certain respiratory and cardiac conditions, as it does not contain beta-blockers that may exacerbate these conditions.

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Search interest for Simbrinza grew by 41% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

Search interest for acetazolamide grew by 43% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

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3. Acetazolamide

People’s interest in the drug acetazolamide (brand name: Diamox) has increased over the past three months as revealed by search data. These searches were highest in the states of North Dakota, Idaho, District of Columbia, Oregon and Oklahoma.   

Acetazolamide is primarily used to treat open-angle glaucoma, and is typically taken in tablet form on a long-term basis to manage the condition. It works to decrease the amount of fluid in the eye, thereby lowering the IOP. It may also be administered through venous injection as a short course therapy to address acute closed-angle glaucoma until surgery can take place to address the emergency.

4. Latanoprost

The drug latanoprost (brand name: Xalatan) has been the subject of increased search interest across the past three months, and the majority of these searches came from West Virginia, Nevada, Delaware, Kansas and Maine. 

Latanoprost is one of the highest-selling glaucoma drugs in the U.S., and is indicated to treat open-angle glaucoma. Delivered as an ophthalmic solution, it has an IOP-reducing effect by increasing the outflow of aqueous fluid from the eye. In some instances it is used in cases of closed-angle glaucoma, post-surgery.

Overall, this drug has been established as effective and safe for most; however, its use has been associated with a permanent darkening of one’s eye color (iris) in up to 30% of patients. People considering taking this medication are usually warned about this side-effect prior to starting it. 

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Search interest for latanoprost grew by 37% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022.

Search interest for closed-angle glaucoma treatment grew by 37% over the last 3 months, from April 2022 to June 2022, and with the highest interest in May 2022.

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5. Closed-angle glaucoma treatment

Over the past three months, there has been an increase in search interest for closed-angle glaucoma treatments, especially in Florida, New York, California and Texas.

Closed-angle glaucoma (also called ‘angle-closure glaucoma’) is a less common form of glaucoma that occurs when the intraocular pressure (IOP) becomes too high due to fluid not being able to flow out through the eye’s drainage pathway (the trabecular meshwork). The high pressure may permanently damage the optic nerve and put one at risk for vision loss or blindness. Closed-angle glaucoma can occur gradually (‘chronic closed-angle glaucoma’) or suddenly (‘acute closed-angle glaucoma’), with the latter being a medical emergency. 

Treatments for both forms include: medication to reduce the IOP, and laser or surgery to re-establish proper drainage. The most common treatment for both forms of closed-angle glaucoma is a peripheral iridotomy, which involves using a laser to create tiny drainage holes in the iris. 

Glaucoma in Culture

The Culture Section highlights emerging cultural trends, new products, and notable dialogue about a variety of health conditions. The purpose of this section is to zoom in on what has been happening within the cultural and professional landscape of a particular health condition–stories that are often missed by quantitative searches.

By featuring influential social media items, patient discourse, professional dialogue, product innovations, and impactful news items, this section illuminates the lived experiences of many patients, while also providing a snapshot of the developments happening around them. 

Here, Quilt.AI offers a detailed and nuanced perspective of what is new and what is meaningful.

1. Addressing Fears with Experts

Glaucoma carries with it the possibility of eventually going blind if not treated or managed, which is understandably frightening for people who have received this diagnosis. Many eye experts have taken to social media to address questions related to the progression of glaucoma (i.e. if it leads to blindness), lifestyle recommendations for those with glaucoma, and ways to reduce or slow the effects of the disease. 

One of the most popular eye experts on social media is Dr. Chirag J. Patel, an ophthalmologist based in Orlando, Florida. His TikTok account (@nonaeyemd), which has 104.7K followers and 5.8M likes, addresses people’s questions about eye health, and he endeavours to answer every question that comes his way. In his most recent video about glaucoma from March 21, he reveals that the disease is known as ‘the silent thief of sight’ because much of the irreversible optic nerve damage can occur before one experiences any visual symptoms. He encourages viewers to get regular eye check-ups, especially if one has known risk factors for glaucoma such as family history or prior eye trauma. 

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2. Holistic Approaches to Eyecare

Eye health is typically – and rightly – addressed by optometrists and ophthalmologists. However, social media has given other practitioners a platform to discuss their opinions on the prevention and treatment of eye issues. One example of an ‘alternative’ practitioner in this arena is Dr. Sam Berne (@samberneod), an American holistic eye doctor (optometrist) whose Instagram account has over 4.4K followers. His June 19 video about glaucoma has been viewed by hundreds already. In it, he claims that essential oils can be helpful in one’s vision therapy program as they can help improve peripheral vision (something that is gradually lost with glaucoma). No data exists to support this claim; however, the popularity of his account and ones like it demonstrate that there is public interest in alternatives to mainstream biomedical approaches. Proponents of these types of remedies are common online but a serious condition such as glaucoma ultimately needs to be assessed by qualified eye health experts.

3. Smart Contact Lens for Glaucoma

On May 17, a major development from a team of researchers from Sun Yat-Sen University in Guangzhou, China was published in Nature Communications. They developed a smart contact lens to treat glaucoma that is able to both detect increasing fluid pressure within the eye and immediately deliver the appropriate amount of medication in response. Although further research is needed before human clinical testing can begin, the development of this battery-free ‘theranostic device’ (combining diagnostics with therapeutics) has been the subject of of many popular news articles. Many people from the U.S. and around the world have found this innovation to be very significant and have taken to Twitter to post articles about it and express their excitement.

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4. Highlighting Gaps in Care and Community

TikTok user and auto enthusiast Tyler (@e36tyler) recently posted a video explaining how demoralizing it has been to not only experience vision loss due to glaucoma and uveitis (inflammation inside the eye), but also to experience them in his 20s and miss out on life experiences and full independence. Worsening visual impairment can be life-altering, and he cites it as the reason he had to drop out of school and quit his job. Tyler uses social media to try and reach others who have similar conditions for mutual moral support as he highlights that there are no local resources to support him through this challenging time. His efforts towards community building among young adults brings attention to the realities that glaucoma can impact younger people, and that some patients experience gaps in care and support when faced with this diagnosis. 

5. Public Service Announcements

There are many TikTok videos that function as educational materials geared towards the general public. They tend to fall under two categories. The first type explains glaucoma’s gradual effects as peripheral vision becomes more limited by the disease. These posts often have simulations that depict how one’s vision might look with glaucoma, through the patient’s eyes. The second type are personal appeals, typically made by people who have received a diagnosis. These individuals tell a cautionary tale and encourage others to get their eyes checked regularly by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. One recent example of this was posted by 19-year old Zolena (@princesszolena) on May 12, and was prompted by her recent experience with receiving a diagnosis of juvenile glaucoma.