It’s the second leading cause of blindness in the world but often goes undiagnosed. A leading expert gives the lowdown on glaucoma.
It’s known as “the silent thief of sight” because symptoms often don’t appear until it’s too late and irreversible damage to the eyes has been done.
Glaucoma affects the eye’s optic nerve – the nerve that sends visual information from the retina to the brain – and gets worse over time.
Here, Dr Saida Yasmeen, a specialist ophthalmologist at Aster Al Raffah Hospital in Ghubra, Muscat, gives an insight into the disease and the treatments currently available.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. This is not because of a lack of effective methods for diagnosis and treatment. It is due to insufficient information available to the public and a low awareness of the implications of the disease. The disease is asymptomatic in its early stages while the patient’s vision suffers irreversible and cumulative damage. Visual disturbances are noted by the patient at the later stages on the way to blindness. Timely diagnosis and therapy could have prevented this deterioration.
Anyone can develop glaucoma. Some risk factors include:
The open angle type of glaucoma is usually asymptomatic until a very late stage at which time the patient notices a loss of vision. By then it has usually progressed to a stage whereupon treatment of any form will not restore the vision. At an early stage, this type of glaucoma is usually detected by chance when the patient visits an eye doctor for some other eye complaint.
A patient with the closed angle type complains of eye pain, headache, seeing coloured haloes, decreased vision and redness.
Your eye doctor will do the following tests to arrive at a diagnosis of glaucoma:
Once a diagnosis of glaucoma has been established, your eye doctor will prescribe you eye drops (either single or a combination of two drops) to control your eye pressure. Eye pressure not controlled with eye drops can be treated with laser surgery. The treatment is aimed at reducing pressure on the eye to prevent your optic nerve from becoming damaged further. Treatment of any form will not restore the vision lost due to glaucoma.
Patients with closed angle type need to undergo a laser iridotomy to reduce the eye pressure and to prevent subsequent attacks of glaucoma.