World Glaucoma Week March 12th- 18th 2017: Exclusive Interview With Dr. B. Shantha

World Glaucoma Week March 12th- 18th 2017: Exclusive Interview With Dr. B. Shantha

by Amrita Surendranath on Mar 11 2017 7:17 PM
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  • World Glaucoma Week is celebrated from March 12th to March 18th 2017
  • The theme is ‘B.I.G- Beat Invisible Glaucoma’
  • Dr. B. Shantha shares her experiences on working with glaucoma, the importance of regular eye check up and the risk factors for glaucoma
The World Glaucoma week is celebrated between March 12th to March 18th 2017. The World Glaucoma Association as well as the World Glaucoma Patient Association have combined to initiate this awareness week. The awareness campaign is aimed at eliminating glaucoma mediated blindness, by encouraging regular eye check-up, which should include a check-up of the optic nerves.

Glaucoma Facts

Glaucoma includes a group of diseases that can affect the optic nerve of the eye and lead to blindness.
  • 60 million cases of glaucoma are estimated to occur worldwide
  • The number of glaucoma cases is expected to increase to 80 million by the year 2020
  • Above the age of 40 years, the prevalence of glaucoma is 2.65%
  • After cataract and refractive errors, glaucoma is the second major cause of blindness
  • Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness
  • In India, the number of glaucoma incidence is 12 million
  • The prevalence of glaucoma in the rural population is 1.7% while the prevalence in urban cities is 3.5%

Theme for 2017: B.I.G- Beat Invisible Glaucoma

Though glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness, there are many people who are still unaware of the risks involved in this condition. About 90% of glaucoma cases remain undiagnosed in the population as there are no symptoms and detection of the condition occurs after a physical examination.

To mark the World Glaucoma week, here is an exclusive interview with Dr. B. Shantha, Director of Glaucoma, Sankara Nethralaya. The well-known doctor has undergone special training in Glaucoma following an observership programme in USA with Dr. Robert Stamper, California Pacific Medical Centre, USA, Dr. Roy Wilson, Jules Stein Eye Institute, Los Angeles USA, Dr. Rand Allingham, Duke University, Durham, USA and Dr.Robert Ritch, New York Eye and Ear infirmary, New York, USA.

Some of her achievements include
  1. Lt.Chalmer's Gold Medal for Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
  2. Best paper award for the paper on ‘Ocular Manifestations of AIDS' at the Tamil Nadu Ophthalmic association meeting in 1993 at Tuticorin, India.
  3. Best paper award for ‘Hypotony in primary trabeculectomy with adjunctive antimetabolites' at the Asia Pacific Association of Ophthalmologists' meeting held at Taipei, Taiwan in 2000.
  4. The Ruby Banik Award for the best research paper, “Risk of loss of central vision following glaucoma filtration surgery in eyes with split fixation.” :Vision Research Foundation, Sankara Nethralaya, Chennai in 2011
Dr. B. Shantha was the Past Secretary of the Glaucoma Society of India from 2005-07 and has trained several postgraduates as well as fellows.

Medindia: How significant is glaucoma in India, can you tell us the prevalence?

Dr. B. Shantha: In the general population, the prevalence of glaucoma is between 1-3%, but it increases with age.

Medindia: What are the risk factors for glaucoma?

Dr. B. Shantha: Age is an important risk factor, as age advances the risk for glaucoma also increases. Another significant factor is race or ethnicity. Africans have the highest risk, Caucasians have the lowest while Asians have a moderate risk. An increase in intraocular pressure is a big factor. Some Western population have thinner corneal thickness, which further increases their risk for glaucoma. People with myopia are also at an increased risk for the disease while family history also contributes to the increased risk.

Medindia: Can you please elaborate on the theme for this year’s World Glaucoma Awareness week doctor?

Dr. B. Shantha: The theme for this year’s World Glaucoma Week is “B.I.G- Beat Invisible Glaucoma.” Glaucoma is considered to be a silent vision thief. There are no known symptoms and, sometimes, the condition may be detected 20 to 25 years after its initial onset. Initially, there is only loss of peripheral field vision but patient’s come to us only when central vision is affected. Sometimes 90% of the vision is lost before patient’s visit the doctor.

Medindia: What are the treatment options available for glaucoma?

Dr. B. Shantha: There is no treatment currently available for restoring the lost vision but treatment modalities are aimed at preserving the existing vision and preventing further deterioration in vision.

Medindia: The current breed of youngsters play excessively on tabs and iPads, will that affect vision?

Dr. B. Shantha: That is not known to affect the risk for glaucoma, though excessive screen time is bad for the vision.

Medindia: What are the changes that we could incorporate in our lifestyle to lower the risk for glaucoma?

Dr. B. Shantha: There are no lifestyle changes that can be incorporated but the prevalence of glaucoma in the urban cities is found to be more than in the rural areas. This could be due to lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes. However, there is no direct association between lifestyle factors and glaucoma.

Everyone should lead a healthy life and exercise everyday to maintain good health. It is very important to get your eye tested once you reach 40 years of age. After the initial check-up at 40 years, an eye check-up should be carried out every 4 to 5 years. As the risk for glaucoma increases with age, routine eye check-up should also be carried out. The prevalence of glaucoma rises to 10% among individuals between the age of 70 to 75 years.

Medindia: The International Women’s Day 2017 was celebrated a few days back with the theme women in the workspace. What is your opinion?

Dr. B. Shantha: Women in India, especially those in the medical profession, share an equal platform with men, which is not the case in many countries. It is important to maintain a good work-life balance but multi-tasking will help the situation. The initial few years when there is an infant in the house will be difficult, but women should not be afraid to ask for help at home. They should utilize facilities like creches that are available at work. It is very important to have the right attitude to work, then everything else will fall into place.

Medindia: There is a lot of research on glaucoma being carried out doctor, will there soon be a treatment for this condition?

Dr. B. Shantha: At present, there is nothing new expected for the next 5 to 10 years. There is a lot of research going on, we will have to wait and watch.

  1. Facts About Glaucoma - (
  2. Glaucoma: An emerging peril - (;year=2013;volume=38;issue=3;spage=135;epage=137;aulast=Saxena)
  3. Glaucoma Facts and Stats - (