Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerve at the back of the eye, causing vision loss and is often undertreated despite being the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It is often referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because symptoms usually do not appear until the disease has progressed significantly where peripheral and gradual vision loss is common, making it difficult for patients to detect it until it is too late.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Roma Johri, Glaucoma Consultant at Shree Shankar Netralaya, Hyderabad revealed, “Certain risk factors are associated with glaucoma, such as age, nearsightedness, family history, eye injuries, certain eye surgeries and medical conditions. Like diabetes and high blood pressure. The World Health Organization estimates that 4.5 million people worldwide are blind due to glaucoma, of which 120 million are affected by the condition in India alone, and about 10 percent of the population suffers from blindness due to glaucoma.
She said, “Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the causes and symptoms of glaucoma. To increase the chances of early diagnosis, it is important to have an annual eye examination with an ophthalmologist. Late diagnosis often results in advanced stages of the disease in many patients.”
Talking about how it develops, she said, “Glaucoma occurs when the fluid from the eye cannot escape through the trabecular meshwork between the cornea and the iris and the channel is blocked. This causes fluid accumulation and an increase in intraocular pressure (IOP), which can compress the optic nerve and disrupt the conversion of light into nerve signals. If left untreated, it can cause visual changes or even vision loss.”
Highlighting the types of glaucoma, she shared, “Glaucoma can be classified into two main types: open-angle and close-angle (or narrow-angle) glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma occurs when the fluid in the eye cannot drain effectively. The anterior chamber , even if the angle is blocked. This type of glaucoma is often asymptomatic and causes gradual loss of vision, earning it the nickname “the silent thief of sight.” On the other hand, closed-angle glaucoma develops when the drainage canals become blocked, preventing the effective emptying of eye fluid. This causes fluid buildup and increased intraocular pressure (IOP). While less common than open-angle glaucoma, angle-closure glaucoma can cause sudden vision changes, such as blurred vision, halos around lights, and poor night vision. Prompt management is important because It can lead to complete and permanent blindness if left untreated.”
Diagnosis and treatment
Dr Roma Johari said, “A glaucoma test is usually painless and short. During the exam, your eye doctor will check your vision and use drops to dilate your pupils to examine your eyes. They will inspect your optic nerve for any signs of glaucoma and may take photographs to track any changes over time. They will also perform a tonometry test to measure your eye pressure, and a visual field test to determine if you have lost any peripheral vision. If your eye doctor suspects that you have glaucoma, they can perform special imaging tests of your optic nerve to help diagnose it.”
He emphasized, “It’s important to remember that having a higher-than-normal eye pressure does not necessarily mean you have glaucoma. Some people with normal eye pressure can still develop glaucoma, while others with high pressure may not have the condition. Any optic When there is high pressure without nerve damage, it is called ocular hypertension. If you have been diagnosed with ocular hypertension, your doctor will recommend frequent eye exams to monitor your condition. Unfortunately, any damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible. However, appropriate With treatment and regular check-ups, especially if the disease is detected in its early stages, it is possible to slow it down or prevent further vision loss.”
Dr. Roma Johri recommends, “The primary method of treating glaucoma is to lower the intraocular pressure. This can be achieved through a variety of approaches, including prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, surgery, or a combination of these methods. Your eye doctor will determine the most appropriate treatment plan based on the severity and progression of your glaucoma. Regular check-ups will also be necessary to monitor your eye pressure and the effectiveness of your treatment.
Emphasizing that awareness is the key, the health expert concluded, “In developing countries like India, glaucoma awareness is very low compared to developed countries. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are important to delay the progression of glaucoma. Educating people about the condition can help reduce blindness caused by glaucoma to some extent. This disease is a growing epidemic and the leading cause of preventable blindness worldwide. However, it is possible to prevent glaucoma from causing irreversible damage. The more people learn about glaucoma and its risk factors, the better equipped they will be to take preventive measures and seek eye care to stop the progression of the disease.”