Drug Improves Vision in Individuals with Neurological Disorder

Apr. 22, 2014

eye examThe drug acetazolamide, combined with a low-sodium weight reduction diet, improves vision in individuals with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), a condition brought about by abnormal pressure on the brain that is not the result of a tumor or other diseases. 

The study, which appears this week in the journal JAMA, was coordinated by Karl Kieburtz, M.D. and Michael McDermott, Ph.D. with the University of Rochester’s Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics (CHET) and also involved Steven Feldon, M.D. with the Flaum Eye Institute

IIH is associated with obesity and, consequently, is on the rise.  It is most prevalent in overweight women of childbearing age.  Most people with the condition suffer debilitating headaches and, because of pressure on the optic nerve, 86 percent experience visual loss and 10 percent develop severe visual loss.

The study was conducted by the Neuro-Ophthalmology Research Disease Investigator Consortium (NORDIC) – an organization of physicians, coordinators, biostatisticians, clinical trial experts, and reading centers – created to perform clinical research with the support of the NIH and other funding agencies and the private sector.   CHET serves as the coordinating center for NORDIC studies.

While acetazolamide is commonly used to treat this condition, there has not been strong evidence to support its use. The study involved 165 individuals with the condition and mild vision loss.  Half received the drug and half a placebo.  Both groups followed a low-sodium weight reduction diet.

The researchers found that the participants who took acetazolamide experienced better vision, a reduction in swelling in their eyes, and a higher self-reported quality of life.  Additionally, people on the drug also experienced a greater reduction in weight.