It’s often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight’ because the gradual loss of vision is basically unnoticed until it’s too late. Glaucoma is a disorder… a menace that damages the optic nerve of the eye and may lead to permanent loss of eyesight. A person may not even know when the symptoms actually began. A regular and thorough check-up of the eyes is the only way to sight signs of the disease early on and control it in time.
Dr. Harsh Kumar, Centre for Sight, Delhi stated that “People over the age of 40, those suffering from diabetes, migraine, who frequently change their spectacles, who have high minus numbers, use steroids too often and most importantly those who have a family history of glaucoma are generally at a higher risk of contracting this disease.”
Dr Kumar also added that one of eight persons above 40 is a glaucoma suspect and 11.2 million people suffer from glaucoma in India.
While in some people, the disease shows with symptoms like redness in eyes, pain and blurry vision, appearance of halos around lights, nausea and vomiting; the more common variety of glaucoma is the silent type (Chronic Open angle Glaucoma) in which the patient is totally unaware of his gradual loss of vision.
As World Glaucoma Week was recently observed internationally from March 10 to 16, doctors urge individuals to keep a tab on the condition of their eyes not only during World Glaucoma Week but to get periodical check ups done on a 6 month to yearly basis.
“Once detected, glaucoma can be stopped from worsening further but reversing it is impossible. Even if you haven’t reached the age of 40, a regular eye check including test for Glaucoma is advisable,” says Dr Rakesh Joshi, 'Surya Eye Care Centre', New Delhi.
Dr. Joshi explainsthe comprehensive eye test includes a vision check, a slit lamp examination, an IOP (Intraocular pressure) check and optic disc evaluation. A baseline record of Visual fields is recommended in patients with a family history of Glaucoma. All these indicators help doctors determine the condition of the eye.
“High eye pressure may exist without noticeable symptoms so many people do not even know they have the disease unless they go for a periodic ophthalmic examination.When symptoms do become noticeable, it's usually only when significant loss of vision has occurred,” says Dr J C Das, Shroff Eye Centre, Kailash colony, New Delhi.
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by damage to the optic nerve. A healthy eye produces a fluid, called aqueous humor, at the same rate at which it drains. High pressure occurs when the drainage system is blocked and the fluid cannot exit at a normal rate. Take a ball or balloon for example, the eye cannot relieve pressure by springing a leak and "deflating" when pressure is too high. The high eye pressure instead keeps building and pushing against the optic nerve which is responsible for vision. The extreme pressure can permanently damage the nerve fibers leading to loss of vision.
Since this disease is irreversible, doctors say that you should not wait for symptoms to crop up to get a check-up done. Small efforts like getting a thorough check-up done every time you change your spectacles can make a big difference in early detection of the disease and save you from its catastrophic effects.
While there is no cure for Glaucoma, elevated Intra Ocular Pressure (IOP) is currently the main treatable risk factor. Research is still on the areas of Neuroprotection and Vasoprotection. It’s important to treat aggressively with the most effective products such as prescription eye drops that can provide maximum reduction of elevated IOP with long-term control. In some cases, surgery can also help. It’s important for patients to use medication as prescribed and maintain regular examinations with an ophthalmologist who can evaluate glaucoma progression and treatment options.
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