World Sight Day 2022: Early detection is important to prevent glaucoma-related blindness

World Sight Day October 13, 2022, Glaucoma Disease: Dr. Sihota also highlighted that in India one-third of the population of glaucoma can be protected from further damage of Glaucoma if they undergo laser procedures.

World Sight Day 2022: Early detection is important to prevent glaucoma-related blindness
In June this year, the government started a special campaign to clear the backlog of at least 10 million cataract surgeries that was created in the past two years owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. (File)

World Sight Day 2022: Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataract but it is also one of the most common causes of irreversible blindness. On the occasion of World Sight Day, health experts stressed the need for early diagnosis and treatment for glaucoma.

It is estimated to cause blindness in 4.5 million people worldwide, whereas in India, out of approximately 12 million people who are suffering from glaucoma, 1.2 million people are already blind owing to this disease.

According to experts, glaucoma is largely undiagnosed, with more than 90 per cent of untreated cases.

On Tuesday, during a disease awareness media conclave, Dr Ramanjit Sihota, Glaucoma Specialist, Shroff Eye Centre and Dr Rishi Jain, Medical Affairs, AbbVie revealed that currently, early diagnosis and appropriate treatment of glaucoma is possible with medicines, surgery, or laser treatments, so that further vision loss can be prevented or if already present, it can be stabilised in most cases.

A group of eye diseases, Glaucoma, can cause vision loss and blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. It is noteworthy that the symptoms can start so slowly that you may not notice them.

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The experts also revealed that the condition gets worse over time and is often linked to a build-up of pressure inside the eye.

During the session, Dr. Sihota said that the increased pressure in the eye, called intraocular pressure, can damage your optic nerve, which sends images to your brain. If the damage worsens, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss or even total blindness within a few years, she said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are several types of Glaucoma but the two most common are primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), which develops slowly over time, and angle closure glaucoma (ACG), which is less common and tends to be more acute.

On the type of Glaucoma prevalent in India, Dr. Sihota told Financial “Among Caucasians, primary open-angle glaucoma is most common. So as compared to that in Indians what we find is that we have almost equal numbers of open angle and angle closure glaucoma and because we have so many other eye diseases, infections, injuries etc. There is a very large chunk of what we call secondary glaucoma that is secondary to other eye diseases. So, as far as the types are concerned, there are three distinct types almost equal in India. What we see is equal numbers of open-angle, angle closure and secondary glaucoma.”

In the case of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), the rise in eye pressure is slow, hence the damage is also gradual.

Dr. Jain also revealed that Glaucoma is known as the ‘Silent thief of Sight’ as it creeps up without any initial signs and symptoms.

“There can be some common asymptomatic indications like redness and pain in the eyes, halos around lights at night, and regular changes in visual acuity. Hence, it is imperative that you have your eyes checked every year after the age of 40 for the early detection of glaucoma. A comprehensive eye examination includes a vision check, examination of the optic nerve, the measurement of eye pressure, and tests such as perimetry and Optical coherence tomography (OCT) in cases of suspicion,” he advised.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sihota told Financial that as far as the treatment protocol is concerned, it is individualised to the patient.

“In open angle glaucoma, what we tend to do is to try and bring the pressure down to an appropriate level of intraocular pressure. A normal person’s pressure is supposedly 14 to 16. If the patient is experiencing the beginning stages of damage, we will try and bring it down to normal pressure. If the damage is severe, obviously we want it lower because the optic nerve is already damaged. In angle closure glaucoma, it is imperative that we do a laser iridotomy. We make a little hole so that the disease can be stopped before it causes any problems,” She said.

Dr. Sihota also highlighted that in India one-third of the population of glaucoma can be protected from further damage of Glaucoma if they undergo laser procedures.

“…those who already have problems with medications like an open angle, glaucoma, we lower the pressure. In patients who have secondary glaucoma, you have to treat, say corneal ulcer or no inflammation in the eye in addition to glaucoma…So again, in secondary glaucoma, you pick it up early, and you can prevent any visual loss. If you pick it up late, then according to the damage that there is, you lower it,” she added.

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According to Dr. Sihota, the common causes of glaucoma include a family history of glaucoma, medical conditions like thyroid disease, high blood pressure, or other cardiovascular problems.

“Apart from these, those who take steroid-containing medications, have high eye power or have had an eye injury or surgery should check their eyes regularly for early diagnosis of the condition,” she added.

Although glaucoma is more common in adults, it can develop at any age. Childhood glaucoma, also commonly known as primary congenital glaucoma, is rare but is responsible for about 4 percent to 8 percent of childhood blindness. An estimated 1 in 10,000 births is affected by primary congenital/infantile glaucoma, the expert said.

“India faces a considerable challenge in terms of eye care, including poor coverage and access to quality services for prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation. A shortage of trained eye care service providers and poor integration of eye care services into health systems is a leading cause for the growing concern of vision loss,” Dr. Rishi Jain, Medical Director, Allergan, an AbbVie Company, said.

He also revealed that Glaucoma is an under-recognised and under-treated condition.

“A timely diagnosis and appropriate management can significantly lower the chances of vision loss. At Allergan, an Abbvie company, we strive to preserve and protect the vision of patients, by providing solutions that offer a better quality of life for people living with glaucoma. We work closely with healthcare practitioners and communities to raise awareness, engage, and empower people about this condition. We continue to research new treatments that address unmet needs, putting the patient in the centre of everything we do, working alongside communities of skilled ophthalmologists. Hence, making a remarkable impact on quality of life and care.” He added.

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First published on: 13-10-2022 at 10:00 IST