World Glaucoma Week being observed from March 7 -13, 2021 to raise awareness among people about the condition and the need for early diagnosis to slow the progression of glaucoma. The main goal of the glaucoma awareness week is to make people vigilant about the importance to get regular eye checks in order to detect asymptomatic glaucoma as early as possible and save eyesight.
This year’s theme is “The world is Bright, save your Sight” emphasis the hope that with regular eye tests, people continue to see the earth around us: a place full of beauty, charm and adventure. It just takes a simple test to save eyesight, as glaucoma detected at a later stage is irreversible and may lead to blindness and sight loss.
To eliminate glaucoma blindness, there are various problems that need to be addressed, as the conditions usually do not give any warning signs until it is advanced. Prompt diagnosis and treatment may avert the damage to the eyes and less the chance the person may become blind.
Glaucoma is a group of diseases of the eye that is categorised by progressive and irreversible damage to the optic nerve. This nerve carries a message from the light-sensitive layer in the eye, the retina to the brain, where it is observed as a picture. The eyes require a certain amount of pressure to maintain the eyeball in shape so that it can function well. One of the causative factors for glaucoma is high-pressure build-up in the eye, but some people with normal eye pressure can also develop glaucoma due to weakness in the optic nerve.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are different types of glaucoma – the two most common ones are primary angle glaucoma (POAG), and angle-closure glaucoma (ACG). Glaucoma is the second most common cause of blindness across the globe. As per WHO reports about 4.5 million people are blind due to glaucoma worldwide. In India, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness with about 12 million people affected and more than a million people have lost vision from the disease. More than 90% of glaucoma remains undiagnosed and the risk increases with age. Thus, it is important to create awareness among people who are at high risk of glaucoma need regular eye check-ups. Doctors recommend doing optic nerve examination that helps to save eyesight in a large segment of the population.
Most people fall for the misconceptions surrounding glaucoma, so, let’s debunk some of them.
Myth 1: Glaucoma affects only elderly people
Fact: The incidence of glaucoma is higher among older people, however, it can affect any person at any age. While most of the glaucoma cases are age-related, other types can even affect new-borns and those in their 20’s. It is vital to get your eye examined regularly even when you are young and have no major eye issue, as loss of vision due to glaucoma is irreversible.
Myth 2: People with good vision, do not develop glaucoma
Fact: Anyone can develop glaucoma, no matter how good their vision. Even people with 20/20 vision can develop the disease that is why glaucoma is called the “silent thief of sight”. It is important to get your eye checked even if you don’t wear glasses.
Myth 3: There’s no cure for glaucoma
Fact: This is actually true, as glaucoma-related vision loss cannot be restored. However, prompt diagnosis and early treatment can slow the progression of the disease, mitigate symptoms and prevent loss of eyesight by regulating eye pressure. It can be treated with medicines like oral pills, eye drops, laser procedure and conventional surgery.
Myth 4: Glaucoma only affects one eye
Fact: It can usually develop in both eyes, but pressure often elevates in one eye initially. This raised pressure may damage the optic nerve, leading to changes in vision. In most cases, peripheral (side) vision is affected first, where any changes in vision may not be obvious, as the condition progress central vision will also begin to be affected.
Myth 5: Blindness is inevitable
Fact: For most people, glaucoma does not lead to vision loss. Early diagnosis may increase your chances of maintaining good eyesight and lead a healthy lifestyle. With modern treatment glaucoma is controllable and regular follow-ups may prevent further damage.