The World Glaucoma Week 2016 is being celebrated between March 6 and 12, 2016 by the World Glaucoma Association and the World Glaucoma Patient Association to increase awareness about this eye condition that can result in blindness, and to emphasize the need for regular eye checkups to prevent glaucoma.
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.’
AdvertisementGlaucoma 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.
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