By Dr. Shefali Parikh
Your eyes are the most fascinating and intricate organ of the body that transmits visual signals to your brain. However, progressive loss of vision can be scary and often irreversible. There are several underlying causes for partial or complete blindness and glaucoma is one of them.
A group of chronic eye diseases, glaucoma is characterized by progressive and irreversible degeneration of the optic nerve. The optic nerve carries visual images to the brain. Therefore, glaucoma can lead to irreversible vision loss and is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide accounting for up to 8% of total blindness. The vision loss usually starts from the periphery of the eyes and gradually progresses towards the centre. Globally, there are 80 million people with the condition and the number is expected to increase to 111 million by 2040.
Awareness is essential
Did you know that about half of the people with glaucoma aren’t aware of their condition? In India, about 12 million people are affected by glaucoma with nearly 10% blind from the disease.Moreover, about 90% of the cases remain undiagnosed in our country. Early diagnosis is often missed as the loss of vision is gradual.
Glaucoma can occur at any age, but it’s common in older adults. It can affect one eye or both. One of the key reasons for glaucoma is high intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the pressure exerted by a fluid called aqueous humor that is present in the eye. The levels of this fluid are maintained by constant production and drainage. If the fluid builds up in the eye, the pressure thus created can damage the optic nerve, leading to glaucoma. However, glaucoma can also occur in people with normal IOP. Hence, it is essential to be aware of the condition. Ask your doctor for a comprehensive dilated eye exam which includes a visual field test to diagnose glaucoma in its early stages.
Once diagnosed, glaucoma can be treated to prevent further loss of sight, however, there is no complete cure. After a thorough evaluation, the doctor may recommend specific eye drops or surgical options such as laser surgery. Proper medication and regular check-ups can keep the condition stable and prevent further vision loss and blindness.
As glaucoma is a progressive, lifelong disease, early detection is extremely important. Once diagnosed, the patient will undergo treatment along with ongoing monitoring of eye pressure, optic nerve damage, and visual field tests. There is also evidence to suggest that moderate exercises like brisk walking or jogging can be beneficial for people with glaucoma. Diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma, hence staying physically active and managing body weight can help.
Measures to protect your sight
Some of the challenges with early glaucoma detection and subsequent treatment include a lack of awareness among the general public as well as patients, limited infrastructure, and compliance and adherence to therapy. Therefore, it is essential to strengthen eye care at each level of the health ecosystem to address this growing public health concern.
This includes educating the public about glaucoma screening, enhancing patients’ access to care, and funding novel treatment strategies. Additionally, eye health systems can be improved in terms of effectiveness and efficiency, with a focus on disease management and early detection. Incorporating technology is also an excellent strategy to enhance eye health systems and improve disease management. Therefore, expanding the eye health infrastructure can offer better patient care and help people preserve their vision.
(The author is a Ophthalmologist, Shreeji Eye Clinic and Palak’s Glaucoma Care Centre, Andheri, LH Hiranandani Hospital. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult medical experts and health professionals before starting any therapy, medication and/or remedy. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the FinancialExpress.com.)