Glaucoma is a chronic eye condition that quietly progresses, leading to permanent vision loss. This condition affects millions of individuals globally, but its insidious nature often keeps it hidden until it reaches an advanced stage. In this article, we aim to shed light on the facets of Glaucoma, from its definition and risk factors to diagnosis and treatment.
The Silent Intruder - Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye disease that strikes surreptitiously. It's a chronic condition that gradually erodes one's vision, and in some cases, it can lead to permanent blindness. This silent intruder operates without warning, making it crucial for individuals to be aware of their risk factors and undergo regular eye checkups, especially as they age.
The Optic Nerve's Battle
When Glaucoma strikes, the optic nerve, responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, is the primary casualty. The optic nerve damage occurs due to elevated intraocular pressure, but surprisingly, Glaucoma can also develop with seemingly normal eye pressure. This emphasizes the need for comprehensive eye examinations beyond just measuring eye pressure.
A Growing Burden in India
India bears a substantial burden of Glaucoma, with approximately 12 million individuals affected by the condition. Even more concerning is that 1.2 million of them are already living with blindness as a direct consequence of Glaucoma. This burden underscores the importance of raising awareness and ensuring early detection and treatment.
The Elusive Signs of Glaucoma
One of the perplexing aspects of Glaucoma is its ability to remain hidden. In many cases, Glaucoma presents no symptoms or visible indicators until it has reached an advanced stage. This makes it imperative for individuals, especially those with risk factors, to schedule regular eye checkups with a specialist. Early detection can be the key to preventing irreversible vision loss.
Unveiling the Risk Factors
Understanding the risk factors for Glaucoma is paramount for early detection and prevention. These risk factors include age over 60, diabetes, hypertension, a history of major eye injury or surgery, a family predisposition to Glaucoma, and the use of certain medications, such as steroids.
A Rare Occurrence in Children
While Glaucoma predominantly affects older individuals, it's important to note that it can also manifest in children, albeit rarely. This condition can even impact newborn babies, necessitating vigilant screening and care, especially in such cases.
The Glaucoma Checkup
During a Glaucoma checkup, specialists employ various clinical tests to evaluate eye pressure and assess the extent of optic nerve damage. Diagnostic tests, including advanced eye scans, are also part of the process, ensuring a comprehensive evaluation to determine the type and severity of Glaucoma.
Treatment for Glaucoma encompasses various options:
Laser Therapy: This is considered for selected cases.
Eye Drops: Typically, eye drops are prescribed to control intraocular pressure, and they are usually required for a lifetime.
Surgical Interventions: In advanced cases, surgery may be necessary. Traditional surgeries like Trabeculectomy, although effective, come with a higher risk of complications and a longer recovery period.
Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgeries (MIGS): A newer, less invasive approach that offers several advantages. These procedures involve micro-blades or micro-drainage devices implanted inside the eye through tiny incisions. They are sutureless, relatively painless, have a quick recovery time, and can even be combined with cataract surgery. Complications are minimal to none, making MIGS an appealing option for many Glaucoma patients.
Recognizing the stealthy progression of Glaucoma, being aware of its risk factors, and familiarizing oneself with the diagnostic and treatment choices are vital steps in safeguarding one's vision. The cornerstone of defense against Glaucoma is the regularity of eye check-ups, which plays a pivotal role in early detection and management, effectively averting the irreversible loss of sight.
This article is authored by Dr.K. Harshitha, Cataract and Glaucoma Surgeon, Maxivision Eye Hospitals, Hyderabad.