Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world accounting for up to 8% of total blindness. In India, glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness with at least 12 million people affected and nearly 1.2 million people blind from the disease. In more than 90% of the population, Glaucoma remains undiagnosed and that can affect the quality of life of an individual at every stage of life.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve – the part of the eye that carries the images we see to the brain. The optic nerve is made up of many nerve fibers, like an electric cable containing numerous wires. When damage to the optic nerve fibers occurs, blind spots develop. These blind spots usually go undetected until the optic nerve is significantly damaged. And it leads to total blindness.
To know the severity of the disease, we should know types of glaucoma,
1. Open-angle glaucoma:
The drainage angle of the eye becomes less efficient over time, and pressure within the eye gradually increases, which can damage the optic nerve. In some patients, the optic nerve becomes sensitive even to normal eye pressure and is at risk of damage. Treatment is necessary to prevent further vision loss.
Typically, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages, and vision remains normal. As the optic nerve damage increases, blind spots begin to appear in your field of vision. Open-angle glaucoma can steal vision so quietly that the patient is unaware of trouble until the optic nerve is badly damaged. Because no symptoms occur, the best way to diagnose this form of glaucoma is by a periodic eye examination. The risk of developing open-angle glaucoma increases with age gradually.
2. Angle Closure Glaucoma:
In eyes which are small and farsighted (Hypermetropia) or some genetically predisposed eyes, the iris (colored part of the eye) remains veg close to the drainage angle & hence can press up against it and close it off. Since the fluid cannot exit the eye, the pressure inside the eye builds rapidly and causes an attack of angle closure.
- Symptoms of an acute attack of angle closure glaucoma :
- Blurred Vision
- Severe eye pain
- Redness and watering of eyes
- Rainbow-colord halos around lights
- Nausea and vomiting
For eye care, this is a true emergency. If you have any of the above symptoms that definitely you should consult an ophthalmologist. Unfortunately, about two-thirds of those with closed-angle glaucoma develop it slowly without any symptoms.
There are many myths related to glaucoma and they should be cleared to reduce confusion.
Do I need glaucoma to check up?
Patient with Diabetes, Myopia, Injury in the eye, High eye pressure and who have taken steroid for a longer time.
Is glaucoma is curable?
Well, glaucoma can never be cured. We can control it with a lot of tropical medication or surgery.
Is glaucoma manageable?
Yes, it can be kept under control by taking medication like eye drops lifelong. If not controlled with medicines than surgery is one of the
options. For Secondary Glaucoma: This type of glaucoma develops secondary to either trauma ( in which case only one eye can be operated)
or due to long term steroid intake (oral, topical or even use of steroid intake for asthma/bronchitis)
Is glaucoma develops only in one eye?
Very rarely glaucoma develops only in one eye.
Is glaucoma infectious?
No, it’s not.
In glaucoma management spectacles can help.
No. If the person is having refractive error along with glaucoma, then in that case spectacles help.
Can glaucoma person use contact lens?
There is no harm if a proper contact lens is used in glaucoma case.
Who else can from the family get glaucoma checkup done?
It is a hereditary disease so maternal or paternal sides of all blood relatives are to be screened for glaucoma.
In case of other illness if a patient visit to the doctor should have to inform about glaucoma therapy?
Yes off course. Must inform and continue glaucoma treatment otherwise patient may land up further complications.
So regular eye examination can help in preventing vision loss from glaucoma. If you are over 35 years and if other family members are known to have glaucoma, you should have your eyes checked for glaucoma every 2 years. Your ophthalmologist should be consulted whenever any of the symptoms appear. Timely diagnosed treatment may help to control further damage.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
DR. DEEPA AGRAWAL
DR. Deepa Agrawal has completed her M.S. (Ophthalmology) from M & J Western Regional Institute of Ophthalmology, Ahmedabad. She has been serving as the Glaucoma consultant for the past 1 year.
DR. PRIYANKA PATEL
DR. Priyanka Patel completed DNB from Shroff Eye Centre, New Delhi and fellowship in Phacoemulsification from Raghudeep Eye
Hospital, Ahmedabad. She has presented papers in AIOS and GOS.