Glaucoma: The Sneak Thief Of Sight

THE eyes see but the brain interprets. The eye ball is an extension of the brain. There is a connection between the eye and the brain called the optic nerve located at the back of the eye and it transmits visual information from the eye to the brain. When this nerve is damaged there is no “network” between the eye and the brain and this results in blindness.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye condition where the optic nerve is damaged. It occurs as a result of the eye pressure (known as the intraocular pressure) becomes too high for the normal function of the optic nerve, this leads to progressive irreversible damage of the optic nerve function.
It is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. In 2010 about 20million had glaucoma this is estimated to rise to 80million in 2020. WHO estimates that 4.5 million people are blind from glaucoma.
In our environment 90 per centof those who have glaucoma are not aware. It is said that 1 in every 25 persons above 40years in sub Saharan Africa has glaucoma.
What are the risk factors for Glaucoma?
• High intra-ocular pressure (IOP): the normal IOP ranges from 10-21mmHg. Individuals with IOP more than 21mmHg stand the risk of developing glaucoma. It is worthy to note that certain individuals with IOP within normal limits can develop glaucoma a situation called normal tension glaucoma due to some poorly understood reasons.
• Age: Glaucoma is common among those who are above 40 years although some children are born with glaucoma a situation called congenital glaucoma as a result of internal deformity of the eye ball leading to poor drainage of the internal fluids in the eye
• Race: Glaucoma is common with blacks, those of African descent
• Family history: those with family members that have glaucoma are at a higher risk of having glaucoma than the rest of the population because there is a hereditary pattern.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
The type of glaucoma common in our environment is usually asymptomatic that means the person is unaware that he/she has glaucoma because there is no eye pain, actually 50 per cent have already lost vision in one eye and are at the risk of losing vision in the second eye by the time they seek treatment, this is why glaucoma is called the “sneak thief of sight”.
Glaucoma starts by knocking off the peripheral vision this means the persons can still see straight ahead but cannot see wide, what we call the field of vision is gradually being narrowed and since it usually starts with one eye it goes unnoticed because the other eye compensates until vision is lost in one eye. Individuals with advanced glaucoma will have problems crossing the road because they might not be able to see the vehicles coming from the sides. Also they might hit the sides of the door post while walking across a door. If you also change your spectacle prescription frequently and your sight seems not to improve, you might need to have your eyes checked for glaucoma.
What can be done to prevent blindness from glaucoma?
The key to the prevention of blindness from glaucoma is early detection and prompt treatment. Individuals who are at risk have to get their eyes checked for glaucoma. If you have any family member who have been blind, maybe a grandparent, parent, uncle or aunty and so on, get your eyes checked for glaucoma. Since glaucoma affects Africans, more especially if you are above
Edited By Rosemary Nwaebwaebuni
40 years you have to have at least a yearly eye check. Ask the doctor to check your eye pressure and look inside your eyes with a special instrument in a procedure we call fundoscopy. Also a visual field test might need to see if glaucoma has started compromising your peripheral vision.
How is glaucoma treated?
There are three treatment options in glaucoma management; eye drops, laser or surgery. The choice of treatment depends on several factors which the ophthalmologist considers and discusses with the patient to choose the best option. Glaucoma is not a once for all treatment ailment, it is a condition that the patient regularly visits his or her ophthalmologist for lifelong treatment. Any vision lost by glaucoma cannot be reversed but if the disease is seen and diagnosed early the deterioration can be stopped or slowed down.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide, many who are suffering from this ailment are not aware that their vision is slowly being wiped out until they get blind, and that is why it is called the sneak thief of sight. The hallmark of prevention of blindness from glaucoma is early detection and prompt treatment. Get your eyes checked and together we can beat invisible glaucoma