By Dr S. S. Gill
In conjunction with the World Glaucoma Week 2015, Ipoh Echo talks to Consultant Eye Surgeon Dr S. S. Gill about this “silent thief of sight.”
The visual impact of glaucoma in the world today is severe enough for The World Glaucoma Association (WGA) and the World Glaucoma Patient Association (WGPA) to work jointly in an effort to increase global awareness of this “Sneak Thief of Sight” by starting on the ‘B-I-G – Beat Invisible Glaucoma’ campaign between March 8 to the 15 this year. Worldwide, too many people are unaware that they have this “silent” disease and continue to lose vision without receiving the appropriate treatment.
So, 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 significant 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 realise that he or she is losing vision is because the vision loss involves the peripheral part of a person’s vision. This peripheral vision loss is the reason why it goes unnoticed by the patient until the very late stage when the central vision starts being affected. Rarely, in some patients there may be symptoms of slight eye discomfort, mild headache and halos 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. Don’t wait for vision problems before you do. It may be too late.