GLAUCOMA – The Silent Thief of Sight
PRIMARY OPEN ANGLE GLAUCOMA (POAG)
By Dr Victoria Pam
Glaucoma has earned the name, ‘the silent thief of sight,’ for the simple reason of having an insidious onset, which may not be recognized early enough for prompt intervention. It is a potentially blinding eye disorder or condition, and 2nd to cataract as a leading cause of global blindness. It is the leading cause of irreversible visual loss.
Bilateral blindness (blindness in both eyes) from glaucoma was projected to have affected 8.4 million individuals in 2010, and greater than 11 million will be affected by the year 20201.
In 2013, the number of people with glaucoma aged 40-80 years worldwide was estimated to be 64.3 million, increasing to 76.0 million by 2020 and 111.8 million by 20402. There are different types of glaucoma but the most common type worldwide – Nigeria inclusive – is the Primary Open Angle Glaucoma (POAG). Infants and young adults can also be affected by glaucoma as well.
What, then, is glaucoma? Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders, which cause damage to the connection (optic nerve/optic disc) between the eye and the brain that interprets the message from the eye (retina). When the damage is severe, this connection stops transmitting information to the brain. This results in blinedness. The front part of the eye is usually normal.
What causes glaucoma? The cause of POAG is unknown. However, risk factors associated with this condition have been identified; these include:
*Increasing age or advanced age;
*Elevated intraocular (eye) pressure (pressure inside the eye);
*Positive family history for glaucoma;
*Increase in thickness of central cornea;
*Myopia (short sight);
*Female gender (however, other studies have male gender being more affected than females).
What are the features of POAG?
*Blurring of vision in one eye or both. Some individuals with glaucoma may describe their vision as ‘hazy or smoky’;
*Gradual and painless loss of vision;
*Constricted field of vision;
*Frequent change of reading glass or spectacle;
*Difficulty with night vision;
*No redness of eye.
Can glaucoma be cured? Glaucoma at the moment cannot be cured, but can be controlled by the use of either anti- glaucoma drugs or surgery or lasers. Blindness from glaucoma can be prevented by early diagnosis and institution of appropriate treatment. Treatment is for live once diagnosis is made, except for divine intervention.
How can blindness from glaucoma be prevented? Individuals 40 years and above should endeavour to visit the eye doctor (ophthalmologist) at least once a year, even if you have no eye complain.
Immediate family members of a glaucoma patient should regularly have their eyes examined by the eye doctor. Members of families with history of unknown cause of blindness in the family should also have their eyes examined. Myopes (short-sighted individuals) should have regular eye examination by ophthalmologist.
Take home message: Remember, GLAUCOMA is ‘The Silent Thief of Sight’, which can creep in without warning, until the individual’s sight is almost extinguished, at which point irreversible damage had taken its toll. Be Warned! To be informed is to be fore-armed!
- Regular eye check-up, especially for those 40 years, by credible eye doctor (Ophthalmologist).
- Those with myopia, hypertension or migraine should also have regular eye examination.
- Avoid self-medication.
Dr Victoria Pam, Consultant Ophthalmology
Culled from: The Fruitful Vineyard, (No.16), 6th March, 2016