January is the month for glaucoma awareness, aimed at raising consciousness about this silent sight stealer disease.
Here are some hard-hitting statistics about glaucoma:
- In India, more than 12 million people are affected with glaucoma
- This constitutes one fifth of the global glaucoma population
- There are equal number of open angle and closed angle glaucoma patients in India
- The National Blindness Survey of 2001 showed that glaucoma was the third leading cause of blindness in India
- It is the primary cause of irreversible blindness globally
- In the South Indian population, the number of urban glaucoma cases (3.5%) was more than the number of glaucoma cases (1.5%) in the rural areas.
Individuals At RiskGlaucoma is a silent disease and a regular eye examination is necessary to identify its presence and for early treatment. Detection of the disease condition is necessary to prevent further deterioration of vision.
‘Glaucoma is a silent irreversible vision killer that tends to be inherited and may not show up until later in life. It can lead to permanent loss of vision.’
AdvertisementIndividuals with the following conditions/ practices may have an increased risk for the disease
- Frequent headaches
- Injury to the face or the eye
- Individuals who have undergone surgeries to the eye
- The necessity to change spectacles often
- Parents, brothers or sisters with glaucoma
- Individuals with hypertension, thyroid disease or diabetes
- Individuals over the age of 40 years
- Excessive rubbing of eyes or use of goggles
Since early detection is the key to saving vision, it is ideal to have a complete eye examination once every year or 2 years.
The glaucoma awareness month is aimed at educating people about the prevalence of the disease, risk of blindness and the need for early detection. A large population of glaucoma patients remain undetected till vision loss is identified. In the Chennai Glaucoma Study conducted by Sankara Nethralaya, 98.6% of glaucoma patients were detected to have the disease during the study program, indicative of the lack of awareness about the disease and fueling the need for more aggressive community health strategies during this glaucoma awareness month.
In the Vision 2020 Right to Sight program in India, Glaucoma is one of the diseases under the avoidable blindness conditions, demonstrating the enormity of this disease condition.
There is no cure for the disease yet but intense research is on to find a cure. People do not realize they have the disease till the disease has advanced considerably. This is because
- Anyone at any age can get the disease. Babies to young adults have been detected with the disease. Most people tend to ignore vision changes in younger adults owing to ignorance about the prevalence of this disease even among the young.
- The added pressure on the optic nerves due to this disease remains undetected as there is no pain associated with it.
- People have been found to lose 40% of their vision before they realize it. This is because people who lose peripheral vision, unconscientiously turn around and face their object of attention directly, not realizing that they have lost peripheral vision.
Proactive Steps:Proactive steps need to be taken by individuals to ensure that glaucoma is detected and corrective measures employed to prevent vision loss. Even after detection, 10% of patients may still lose their sight.
- Talk to friends and family about vision changes.
- Consciously look out for reduction in the field of vision.
- Speak to an expert about vision concerns.
- Get eyes tested every year.