Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide. In India alone, we have 12 million people suffering from glaucoma but the good news is that if detected early the problem can be addressed.
Dr. Shibal Bhartiya, Senior Consultant Ophthalmology, Fortis Hospital shared ways to address the disease.
What is glaucoma and why is it known as a silent killer?
Glaucoma is a set of diseases which have a final common pathway. In glaucoma, the optic nerve in the eye gets damaged. It happens due to the increase in the pressure of the eye known as intraocular pressure. It is known as a silent killer because glaucoma does not show any symptoms and it is difficult to detect it in its early stage.
What are the early signs of glaucoma?
There are no early signs of glaucoma. The symptoms are visible after the complete onset of the disease. The patient is not able to experience any symptoms but the peripheral vision degrades very slowly and the ability to understand the contrast reduces. Symptoms are visible only in angle closure glaucoma like rings around a blub or any other light and headaches.
What causes glaucoma? How can it be diagnosed?
The diagnosis of glaucoma cannot be done manually and even the causes cannot be found. For primary glaucoma the only reason is heredity. Whereas secondary glaucoma has some particular reason like injury in the eye, use of steroids or after effect of surgery.
People are often confused between cataract and glaucoma, what is the difference between the two?
There is a huge difference between the two. Cataract affects the lenses of the eye whereas glaucoma affects the optic nerve of the eye. The blindness caused by cataract is reversible whereas the blindness caused by glaucoma is irreversible.
Who is at a higher risk of developing glaucoma?
Glaucoma is also known as the Alzheimer's of the eye because it is related to ageing. But the type of glaucoma is also a factor, angle-closure glaucoma can affect youngsters also and the open angle glaucoma is found more in people above 60 years of age. There is also newborn glaucoma.
If there is a history of glaucoma in the family then what can be done to prevent it?
If there is a history of glaucoma in the family then you are at a higher risk. The most important thing in such a situation is getting your eyes checked every year because your doctor can detect the disease at an early stage and can prevent blindness. One should also avoid steroid use. Smoking should also be avoided as much as possible.
If diagnosed with glaucoma, what is the line of treatment that one needs to follow?
There are various tests that one has to go through. The most important stage is the measurement of eye pressure and visual fields. Later OCT is done to measure the thickness of the optic nerve.
While using eye drops, what are the precautions one should take?
First, you should clean your hands properly and always check the expiry date of the drops. Also, make sure that you never touch the tip of the eye drop with your hands. Touching it directly with your bare hands can contaminate it. To put the drops you should first pull the lower lid down and drop the medicine. Now close your eyes and wipe the excess with the help of a tissue. Now gently press the left corner of the eye for ten seconds.
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