Did you know glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts?

There is no preventive treatment for glaucoma.

More than 90 per cent of glaucoma cases remain undiagnosed and untreated. Celebrating World Glaucoma Week, renowned eye experts highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of the disease to prevent vision loss.

After cataracts, glaucoma is believed to be the second leading cause of blindness globally. About 4.5 million people are estimated to suffer from blindness worldwide owing to this disease. As per 2012 statistics, 12 million Indians were diagnosed with glaucoma, out of which 1.2 million patients had become blind. Concerningly, glaucoma remains largely undiagnosed and untreated, with the statistics suggesting the number to be more than 90 per cent. What one should know is that glaucoma is a progressive and irreversible condition, and early detection and management are of utmost importance to slow or prevent vision loss.

World Glaucoma Week is observed annually in March (March 12 -18) to raise awareness about vision impairment and blindness caused by glaucoma and to highlight the importance of early detection and treatment of this disease. To celebrate the World Glaucoma Week 2023, Allergan, an AbbVie company, recently organized a Disease Awareness Media Conclave in New Delhi, bringing together renowned experts in the field of ophthalmology. The experts shed light on various aspects of the disease, essential measures for managing risk and prevention techniques, importance of early detection and treatment, latest developments in Glaucoma treatment, and more.

Understand the causes of Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve, which transmits visual information from the eye to the brain, often due to a buildup of pressure inside your eye or intraocular pressure. The disease typically progresses slowly over time and can cause gradual loss of peripheral vision, eventually leading to irreversible blindness if left untreated.

Aqueous humor is the fluid inside the eye that usually flows out of the eye through a mesh-like channel. Blockage if this channel or too much production of aqueous humor can cause the liquid to build up and increase the pressure in your eye. While it can be inherited, sometimes the causes of Glaucoma are not known.

Common risk factors of glaucoma

Various factors can increase the risk of developing glaucoma and an average individual has a 2.3 per cent risk of developing the condition in his/her lifetime, said Dr. Suneeta Dubey, Medical Director, Director Glaucoma Services, and Chairperson-Quality Assurance at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital.

Genetics is one of the most significant risk factors of developing glaucoma. If you have a parent or sibling with glaucoma, you have a 10-fold increased risk of developing the disease, she explained.

According to her, other risk factors of glaucoma include: Age (the risk of glaucoma increasing significantly after 60 years); medical conditions such as short- or long-sightedness, high blood pressure, diabetes; history of certain eye surgeries, use of steroid as eyedrop or systemic use.

No preventive treatment for glaucoma

There is no preventive treatment for glaucoma, but people can follow certain measures to manage their eye health.

Talking about the measures to be taken for good eye health, Dr. Deven Tuli, Senior Consultant Glaucoma at the ASG Narang Eye Center in New Delhi, suggested:

  • Getting enough vitamins and minerals essential for the eyes (such as zinc, copper, selenium and vitamins A, C, and E)
  • Exercising appropriately after consulting your doctor
  • Limiting caffeine intake
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Sleeping with your head raised
  • Adhering to your medication schedule strictly

Annual eye exams necessary to detect glaucoma

Dr. Rishi Jain, Medical Director, Allergan an AbbVie Company, emphasized that yearly eye exams is necessary to detect glaucoma early and prevent visual loss. He recommends visiting an ophthalmologist at least once every two years to get your eyes checked to detect early symptoms of glaucoma.

An optometrist or ophthalmologist conduct simple tests like tonometry, ophthalmoscopy, and perimetry for detecting increased eye pressure (tonometry), optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy), and vision loss (perimetry). Along with this, procedures such as gonioscopy and pachymetry, may be recommended to measure the angle between the cornea and iris.

People should include eye check-ups in their routine health examination

Renowned Glaucoma Specialist Dr. JC Das emphasized the important of including eye check-ups in their routine health examination.

He recommended visiting an ophthalmologist at the earliest, if one starts experiencing mid symptoms like eye pain or blurry eyes, which allows early intervention and adoption of a suitable treatment regimen on time. Timely and appropriate treatment can prevent further blindness.

Visit an ophthalmologist for regular preventive eye check-ups and a healthy diet to protect your eyes, added Dr. Das.

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