Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Glaucoma - a group of diseases that damages the optic nerve of the eye - is one of the most common causes of blindness across the world and is often called as the silent thief of sight. This disease is very common even in developed countries and goes without notice.

Glaucoma in the early stages may not have noticeable symptoms. Hence, many people do not even know that they have the disease unless they go for a periodic examination. It is noteworthy that due to the silent progression of the disease - at least in its early stages - up to 50% of the affected people in developed countries are not even aware of having glaucoma.

There is no cure for Glaucoma as yet and the vision loss is irreversible. However, medications or surgery slowdown further loss of vision. Therefore, early detection is essential to limit visual impairment and prevent progression towards severe visual handicap or blindness.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases that causes damage to optic nerve, which results in blindness. The optic nerve connects the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of glaucoma. But unfortunately, half of the people with this condition do not know that they have it. It has no symptoms at first. But over the years, it can steal your sight. With early detection and prompt treatment, you can, to a certain extent, protect your eyes against serious vision loss and blindness.

Who is at Risk?

  • People with a family history of Glaucoma.

  • Diabetes.

  • Myopic or short-sighted individuals.

  • People over sixty years of age

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

At first, open – angle Glaucoma has no symptoms. Vision remains normal and there is no pain. Although people with glaucoma can notice clearly the things in front of them, they miss the objects to the side and out of the corner of their eyes. It looks as if they are looking through a tunnel.

If glaucoma remains untreated, over time the remaining central vision may decrease until there is no vision left.

How is Glaucoma Detected?

Regular eye examinations by your Ophthalmologist is the best way to detect Glaucoma. Your ophthalmologist will measure your eye pressure, inspect the drainage angle of your eye, evaluate your optic nerve and test the visual field of each eye.

How and When is Glaucoma Treated?

Treatment can often bring glaucoma under control. This makes early diagnosis and treatment important to protect your sight. You will need to use the drops and pills as long as they help control your eye pressure. Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment are very important because glaucoma often has no symptoms and hence people may be tempted to stop or may forget to take their medications.

Once diagnosed with glaucoma, medications must be taken as per doctor's instructions and the pressure, as well as visual field, should be monitored closely. Even if the pressure has been adequately controlled, eye pressure management and visual field test gave to be repeated, once in six months. With proper treatment, further vision loss can be prevented.

What is Computerized Visual Field Testing?

The visual field is the entire area one can see with the eyes including central and peripheral vision. A visual field test can detect the problems with vision, in any part of the visual field. The test provides a map of vision loss, which will be helpful in diagnosing the cause of the loss. A subtle change in visual field is one of the earliest manifestations that surfaces with glaucoma.

Thus, by checking the visual field, doctors may be able to diagnose glaucoma early, before much damage occurs to the optic nerve.

What Precautions should Glaucoma Patient Take?

  • Use eye drops as instructed by your doctor. Missing even one dose can result in elevated tension and consequent visual field damage.

  • Always keep an extra bottle of eye drops with you.

  • You must use the eye drops at the proper time before going for tension measurement. Some eye drops may lose their efficacy over time; so, it is important to check if the medication is outdated.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist to demonstrate the right way to use eye drops.

  • Tension measurement will have to be done frequently till tension gets stabilized. As the tension varies during day and night, multiple recordings may become necessary.

  • Once the tension is brought under control, the measurement can be done once in three months.

  • A vision field test has to be done once in six months.

The data from these tests will be analyzed to ensure that the disease is under control. So far, there is no known cure for glaucoma. Blindness or significant loss of vision can be prevented if the disease is detected in early stages and treated properly.

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Author: Hakimuddin Kuwakhedawala13 Feb 2018 Member Level: Diamond   Points : 3

Nice article by the author. It is necessary to take care your eyes as other body parts. There are no specific symptoms of Glaucoma and people generally think that this loss of vision is due to cataract. Glaucoma can damage your retina and once retina is damaged there is no way to generate it again. Due to glaucoma eye pressure increases which adversely affect our retina. People must see an ophthalmologist every year even if he does not have any eye problem.

Author: Partha K.20 Feb 2018 Member Level: Platinum   Points : 7

An excellent article by the author. On the rear side of the eye, the retina is situated which is a layer of light-sensitive tissue lining inside the eye and is made of nerve fibres. These optic fibres send signals to the brain which interprets the image. In the healthy eye, a liquid called aqueous humor circulates inside the eyes and maintains a certain pressure on the retina. In the normal eye, a small quantity of humor is produced in the retina and an equal amount flows out of the eyes and thus pressure is maintained. But in case of the patients suffering from glaucoma, the aqueous humor does not flow outside the eyes properly and the pressure inside the eyes increases, which increases the danger of damaging the retina, as the increased pressure damages the optic nerves.

As a common man from a non-medical background, I think glaucoma cannot be prevented. However, if detected early, it can be treated and controlled.

The author has rightly said that glaucoma is the silent thief of vision. We must get our eyes checked at least once in a year which would enable early detection of this disease.

Concluding my response, I thank the author for this brief but very useful article.

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