Glaucoma is the second leading cause of visual impairment in the world today
. It is second only to cataract. However, cataract
is easily treatable if people have
adequate access to health resources. On the other hand, if glaucoma is not recognized early, it can result in irreversible damage to the eye.
‘World Glaucoma Week 2016 emphasizes the need to detect the eye disease early through regular check-ups and prevent vision loss.’
Glaucoma is a condition that can result in damage to
the optic nerve, the nerve that carries signals from the eye to the brain
. It is commonly though not always, associated with an increase in
fluid pressure within the eyeball. The front of the eyeball contains a fluid
which is constantly produced and drains out of the eye. If the fluid pressure
increases, the excessive pressure can damage the optic nerve, the nerve that
carries signals to the brain. Once the optic nerve is damaged, the blindness
cannot be reversed.
In some patients, glaucoma affects the eye suddenly. The eye becomes red and painful
and has to be treated immediately. However, more commonly, glaucoma is a slow
process. Symptoms do not appear, except until the late stages, when the changes
are irreversible. Peripheral vision is affected earlier, resulting in a
tunneled view. The central vision is usually lost last. Eye drops or sometimes
surgery in the early stages can prevent this irreversible damage. Diet rich in green leafy vegetables can help lower risk of glaucoma
The theme for this year's World Glaucoma Week 2016 is
Beat Invisible Glaucoma
. Through this theme, the
organizers hope to increase more awareness about the condition, which could
prevent sight loss, and thereby prevent disability. Some of the measures to
prevent glaucoma that should be adopted include the following:
- An eye check should be an important part of the routine health checkup. People should be made aware that they should visit an eye doctor at regular intervals, even if their vision is normal. Since glaucoma
incidence increases with age, this is particularly necessary as one grows
over 40 years of age.
- Ophthalmologists and
optometrists should be alerted to carry out specialized tests to check for
changes due to glaucoma and not lose the
opportunity of diagnosing the condition in the asymptomatic stage when the
patient comes for a routine checkup. Tests should include checking the
optic nerve after dilatation using drops, the eye pressure and the
peripheral field of vision.
- People who have a
first-degree relative suffering from glaucoma are at higher risk than the
general population. In these people, eye
checkups may need to be more frequent.
- People with previous eye
surgeries or diseases like hypertension and diabetes are also at a
high risk for glaucoma and require frequent eye checks. People with extreme shortsightedness are also at a risk for glaucoma.
- Once diagnosed with glaucoma, it should be emphasized to the patient, that unless the optic nerve is damaged, the condition can be controlled and the patient may continue to have normal vision. However, it is extremely important to adhere to the prescribed treatment to prevent any damage to the eye. This should be
particularly emphasized because since glaucoma may not cause symptoms, the
patient may be careless with the treatment.
are being organized to celebrate the World Glaucoma Week. You could do your bit
by being a part of these events or increasing awareness about the condition in
your social network.