Glaucoma - Cause of Irreversible Blindness
DID YOU KNOW?
It looks like Glaucoma is an unwelcome "sword of Damocles" hanging with perpetual menace over the heads of those who reach an advanced age. Yes, Glaucoma is the dreaded word that most middle-age people hate to hear! It literally comes like a thief in the night and steals the most invaluable asset you have - your sight, so gradually that most patients don't even know they have the disease until they've lost a significant part of their vision. No wonder, glaucoma is referred to as the "silent thief of sight".
- The eye is like a fluid filled bag. Normally there is a balance between the formation, circulation and outflow of the fluid inside the eye. When this balance is disturbed, pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure) goes up. This condition is called glaucoma.
- In most cases, glaucoma is associated with high eye pressure. But sometimes it can occur even when the intraocular pressure is normal.
- The increase in eye pressure damages the optic nerve and causes the nerve fibers to degrade and get destroyed. Thus glaucoma steals your vision in a peculiar way that the peripheral vision is lost first gradually progressing towards the center ultimately leading to blindness.
- Glaucoma is often a silent disease which does not give rise to any symptoms. It is virtually undetectable by the patient during the early stages. Very rarely symptoms such as pain and redness can occur.
- Glaucoma, the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world, can strike at any age. From the new-born to the elderly, anyone can develop glaucoma but is more common above 40 years of age.
- Glaucoma is controllable but the vision lost cannot be regained. Yes, the damage caused is permanent and irreversible. However, further vision loss can be prevented through treatment.
- Persons who are prone to get glaucoma are
- Family history of glaucoma
- History of eye trauma / surgery
- People with high minus or plus power spectacles
- Once diagnosed as glaucoma, the patient has to be on lifelong treatment and follow-up.
- The most common modality of treatment is with medicines (eye drops). The seemingly innocuous eye drops that have to be used by glaucoma patients lifelong are accompanied by side effects. The main reason for failure of treatment with eye drops is the inability to apply the drops properly according to the dosage, that too lifelong.
- Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), the laser treatment for glaucoma is a boon for the glaucoma patients. It works best for newly diagnosed glaucoma patients. It is a safe and painless OPD procedure after which the patient can immediately resume all routine activities. Usually a one-time procedure, SLT can be safely repeated if required later. Thus SLT scores over eye drops as it frees the patient from the hassle of using lifelong eyedrops. Moreover, SLT reduces the intraocular pressure more significantly as compared to the eye drops and prevents day to day fluctuations of intraocular pressure.
- Early detection of glaucoma through a comprehensive eye examination is the key to protecting your vision. A yearly eye examination is mandatory for all glaucoma patients as well as those above 40 years of age. Early detection, strict adherence to treatment and a regular lifelong follow up is the way to protect your eyes from this silent thief called glaucoma.