Dr S.S. Gill
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in progressive damage of the optic nerve (the “main cable” that carries visual information from the eye to the brain). If glaucoma is not treated, it permanently damages vision in the affected eye(s) and results in blindness. It is often, but not always, associated with increased pressure of the fluid in the eye (aqueous humour).
Glaucoma has been nicknamed the “silent thief of sight” because the vision loss normally occurs gradually over a long period of time without much symptoms until you eventually lose significant vision. In other words, it means that one will only notice poor vision when the disease is serious and the damage to the optic nerve is advanced.
Worldwide, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness after cataracts. Glaucoma affects one in 200 people aged fifty and younger, and one in 10 over the age of eighty. As many as 6 million people are blind in both eyes from glaucoma today. Most of these people were once unaware they had this disease until they lost significant vision in one or both eyes.
One reason why a person may not realize that he or she is losing vision is because the vision loss involves the peripheral part of a person’s vision (adjacent pic). This peripheral vision loss is the reason why it goes unnoticed by the patient until the very late stage when the central vision is completely lost. Rarely, in some patients there may be symptoms of slight eye discomfort, mild headache and haloes around lights.
Any person who is 40 years and above should go for glaucoma screening. More so, if you have a family history of glaucoma and have never been screened for glaucoma yourself, you should go for an eye check as soon as you can.
More on Glaucoma in the next issue of the Ipoh Echo.