March 12-17th is World Glaucoma Week. According to estimates over one million Indians lose their eyesight to glaucoma. More than 90% of the cases stand undetected because of the asymptomatic nature of the disorder and lack of awareness. We approached Dr Meena Doshi, a glaucoma expert from Right Sight Eye Care in Mumbai to answer some of the often asked questions about glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma? Why is it dangerous?
Glaucoma is a dangerous disorder of the eye affecting the nerve of sight (optic nerve). It happens due to a steady or sudden rise in the eye pressure, akin to blood pressure in your body. It is dangerous because it can affect the eye without symptoms and lead to irreversible loss of vision.
How does it occur?
A fluid called aqueous humor is continously circulating in your eye providing nourishment. In a normal eye, it is produced and drained at a normal rate. In glaucoma due to a blockade in the drainage system, it increases the pressure in the eye. The optic nerve which runs through the eye gets compressed due to the increased pressure. Since this nerve is responsible for taking the visual impulses from the eye to the brain, any pressure on it may cause decrease in vision leading to blindness.
How do I know if I have Glaucoma?
Most of the times, glaucoma presents with no symptoms. Occasional non-specific headaches, eye strain might be there.It is not uncommon to see patients who come in for glasses and end up being diagnosed with glaucoma. It can be diagnosed well only by an eye doctor by measuring the eye pressure.
Are there any risk factors which increase my chances of having Glaucoma?
- A family history of glaucoma
- Higher spectacle numbers (more than -4or +4)
- Usage of certain eye medications (like steroids) for a long time without doctor’s supervision.
- Usage of steroids for a long time for any auto-immune or kidney disease
- An old eye injury
- History of diabetes and/or hypertension
Can I prevent it in any way?
If you are above 40 years of age,it is recommended that you visit your eye doctor for a complete eye checkup every year. If you have any of the risk factors mentioned above, yoou may have to visit the eye doctor even earlier.
How does the doctor diagnose Glaucoma?
- Documenting rise in eye pressure
- Documenting loss in peripheral(side) vision by computerized methods
- Documenting the damage to the optic nerve by advanced scanning techniques
What treatments are available for Glaucoma?
- Eye drops which help control the eye pressure usually prescribed for a lifelong basis.
- Laser procedures to open up the drainage thus reducing the pressure.
- Surgery in advanced cases
Is Glaucoma curable?
No, it is not curable but can only be controlled by regular medication and frequent check-ups.
It is possible to lead a normal life if proper care is taken, you are regular with using the eye drops and visit the doctor regularly for check ups. Make time for that pending eye check up today and save your eye sight!