Glaucoma Week 2023: 90 percent of cases are undiagnosed in India

Glaucoma Awareness Week 2023: Dr. Tuli also told Financial that eye drops, laser procedures and surgeries are the treatment options available for the glaucoma patients in India.

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The exact cause of near sightedness is not fully understood, but there are a number of known risk factors.

World Glaucoma Week 2023: This World Glaucoma Week, Allergan, an AbbVie company, came together with experts in the field of ophthalmology to emphasise the importance of early detection and treatment of glaucoma to prevent eye impairment. During the media briefing, the experts also shed light on the essential measures for managing risk and prevention techniques, as well as the latest developments in treatment.

Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that causes damage to optic nerves. According to doctors, with all types of glaucoma, the nerve connecting the eye to the brain is damaged, usually due to high eye pressure. Studies suggest that Glaucoma is the third leading cause of blindness in India. 12 million people are affected accounting for 12.8 percent of the country’s blindness.

World Glaucoma Week is celebrated annually in March to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and treatment of glaucoma.

Globally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts. It is estimated to cause blindness in 4.5 million people worldwide. Despite this, glaucoma is largely undiagnosed, with more than 90 percent of untreated cases. Being a progressive and irreversible condition of blindness, early detection and management are extremely important.

Glaucoma typically progresses slowly over time and can cause gradual loss of peripheral vision, eventually leading to blindness if not treated.

“I think we have already discussed this aspect in detail…the challenges are that whatever we are seeing right now is just the tip of the iceberg. 90 percent of the patients are not diagnosed because they never go from eye-checkup unless there is some problem they will never go. Even if they face problems in rural areas and low-socio-economic groups they do not go for eye-checkup. This is the biggest challenge that we are facing right now. Awareness is very less and the assumptions that decreased vision is because of cataracts and that we are late for some months and years and we can get it done. This is another misunderstanding among people. As the infrastructure is not available, there are diagnostic challenges too. If somebody is going to a primary healthcare facility, they just have a torch. So, there is no cataract, no one can diagnose Glaucoma unless there are some symptoms. Even though there is a diagnosis, the treatment is also challenging and expensive,” Dr. Suneeta Dubey, Medical Director, Director Glaucoma Services, and Chairperson-Quality Assurance at Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital told Financial

According to Dr. Dubey, various factors can contribute to the development of glaucoma. In general, an average individual has a 2.3% risk of developing glaucoma in his/her lifetime. However, certain factors can significantly increase the risk of developing glaucoma.

“One of the most significant risk factors is genetics, as individuals with a parent or sibling with glaucoma have a ten-fold increased risk of developing the disease. Other factors that may increase the risk of developing glaucoma include having other medical conditions such as short- or long-sightedness, high blood pressure, diabetes, or having undergone certain eye surgeries. Age is also a significant risk factor, with the risk of glaucoma increasing significantly after the age of 60. Another very important factor is use of steroid as eyedrop or systemic use. By understanding the various risk factors associated with glaucoma, individuals can take proactive steps to reduce their risk,” she said during the media briefing.

L-R, Dr. Rishi Jain, Dr. Deven Tuli, Dr. JC Das, Dr. Suneeta Dubey. ( Panda)

The experts also emphasised on the necessity of yearly eye exams to detect glaucoma early and prevent visual loss.

“Even though there is no preventive treatment for glaucoma except regular eye exams, you can follow certain measures to manage your eye health. It involves taking vitamins and minerals necessary for good eye health (such as zinc, copper, selenium and vitamins A, C, and E), exercising appropriately (after consulting your doctor), limiting caffeine intake, drinking plenty of fluids, sleeping with your head raised and strictly adhering to your medication schedule,” Dr. Deven Tuli, Senior Consultant Glaucoma at the ASG Narang Eye Center in New Delhi, said.

Dr. Tuli told Financial that proper and timely treatment can prevent further blindness. It is advisable to visit an ophthalmologist for regular preventive eye check-ups who can further conduct IOP pressure and Fundus Examination to recommend a healthy diet to protect your eyes, he added.

“Early detection is key to prevent vision loss, as once lost it cannot be reversed. Visit an ophthalmologist at least once every two years to get your eyes checked. The early symptoms of glaucoma are normally detectable during an eye exam by an optometrist or ophthalmologist. Tonometry, ophthalmoscopy, and perimetry are simple tests for detecting increased eye pressure (tonometry), optic nerve damage (ophthalmoscopy), and vision loss (perimetry). Additionally, your doctor may perform other procedures, such as gonioscopy and pachymetry, which measure the angle between the cornea and iris,” Dr. Rishi Jain, Medical Director, Allergan an AbbVie Company said.

Dr. Tuli also told Financial that eye drops, laser procedures and surgeries are the treatment options available for the glaucoma patients in India.

“Screening is another challenge…we are not doing enough Glaucoma screening in the country. To overcome this, the government is doing Glaucoma screening combined with cataract screening and diabetic retinopathy. The challenge is to create the infrastructure and manpower. Although, some challenges have been tackled several challenges remain at large,” Dr. JC Das, Senior Most Glaucoma Specialist told Financial

According to Dr. Tuli, there is a lack of healthcare infrastructure.

“I don’t think we have more than 2000-2500 glaucoma experts in the country. Although we have ophthalmologists which will be around 25,000-30,000 in the country glaucoma experts are very limited. So, definitely, there is a healthcare resourcing limitation,” he added.

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First published on: 13-03-2023 at 12:11 IST
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