Glaucoma is the second only to cataract as the leading cause of blindness in people, who are in the above 40-year age group. Though awareness about the cataract exists to some extent, most people know little or nothing about glaucoma. Knowledge about glaucoma can help one prevent it from darkening one’s life. Read about silent thief of sight and understand how the power to protect your vision lies in your own hands.
Glaucoma is a progressive degenerative disease of the optic nerve, which connects eye to brain. It is caused most commonly due to increased pressure inside the eye. Normally there is a fluid within the eye called aqueous humor. This fluid keeps the eye turgid. In glaucoma the drainage mechanism gets blocked and fluid starts accumulating within the eye thereby increasing eye pressure. This increased pressure in turn induces optic nerve damage. Not infrequently, normal eye pressure too can damage the optic nerve. It occurs when the nerve is abnormally sensitive to eye pressure.
Majority of the time glaucoma is symptomless until the last stage of disease is reached. In the advanced stages, there is gradual loss of field of vision ultimately leading to complete blindness. This might take years. In a few patients, glaucoma gives rise to sudden severe pain, with rapid decrease of vision.
One should remember that glaucoma is a silent killer of vision. It comes without calling. No warning signs, no obvious symptoms and worst of all no permanent cure. The visual loss is so gradual that it may be a while before you actually start suspecting that your vision might be deteriorating.
Unfortunately, by the time you are aware, you might have already lost a significant deal of vision. The loss is irreversible– despite the current advance in technology. Hence early diagnosis and meticulous follow-up and treatment is the key in controlling the disease.
If you are over 40 years of age and you have blood relatives with glaucoma there are chances that you may suffer from this eye problem. If you had any eye injury and you are wearing thick glasses, this may cause the glaucoma. You are also at a risk of suffering from glaucoma if you have diabetes or hypertension or thyroid disorder.
The vision lost due to glaucoma cannot be recovered back. The existing vision can be saved with appropriate treatment by glaucoma specialists. Hence early detection is the key to protect your eyes from this silent killer. Timely treatment goes a long way in either slowing down or halting the progression of the disease and preventing irreversible blindness.
As there are no warning signs or symptoms, don’t wait for visual problems to develop but get a thorough checkup regularly after the age of 40 years.
Dr Sanjay Pachapure, Glaucoma Consultant,
M M Joshi Eye Institute, Dharwad.