‘Silent thief of sight’: How glaucoma causes progressive loss of vision

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Glaucoma is a condition that can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. Globally, it is the second leading cause of blindness, yet it remains one of the most undertreated eye condition. It is commonly referred to as a ‘silent thief of sight’, as it typically does not start showing symptoms early in the disease lifecycle. Glaucoma usually causes a peripheral and gradual decrease in sight, making it difficult for patients to notice the growing visual deficiency until it is too late.

One should be aware of the following risk factors involved:

Near sightedness
Family History of glaucoma
Any eye injury or certain types of eye surgeries
Medical history, suffering from disease like diabetes, high blood pressure etc

According to the World Health Organisation, about 4.5 million people in the world are blind due to glaucoma. In India, approximately 12 million people suffer from this condition and almost 10 per cent of the population is blind because of glaucoma.1 Even though it’s a common condition people are unaware about the causes and symptoms of the disease. For early diagnosis of glaucoma, it is important to have an annual eye check up with an ophthalmologist. Due to delayed diagnosis, an advanced condition of glaucoma is seen with many patients.

The symptoms of glaucoma may vary depending on its type. One of the most common types of glaucoma is open angle glaucoma. A significant amount of vision loss usually precedes the onset of symptoms. While symptoms of acute glaucoma include eye pain, redness, headache, nausea and blurry vision, open angle variety of glaucoma is asymptomatic till the last stages of the disease. Although anyone could be at risk of developing glaucoma, certain groups are at a higher risk, like people above the age of 40 or people with a family history of glaucoma.

There are treatment options available like topical medications, surgery, or laser therapies. Despite the fact, that damage due to glaucoma could not be reversed, early detection and treatment of the disease can reduce the probability of further damage and irreversible vision loss.

However, the treatment options are purely based on individual patient and the treating physician. An ophthalmologist can suggest the best treatment option for a patient based on the examination.

Therefore, timely visits to an ophthalmologist and regular eye-check-ups are recommended to keep an eye out for glaucoma.

The author is Consultant & Director, Nelivigi Eye Hospital, Bengaluru. Views are personal.

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