In India, there are more than 11.2 million people aged 40 years or more, afflicted with glaucoma and the concerning part is that without therapy they have the chances of going blind. It is a daunting problem India faces with the rate of undiagnosed glaucoma cases standing at a staggering 90 per cent as compared to 40-60 per cent in the developed world.
Awareness about glaucoma is extremely poor in both urban and rural communities. In the early stages of the disease, only peripheral vision is affected and hence patient may not notice any changes since the central vision remains intact. Hence patients may not seek check-ups until the disease is more advanced. Routine eye check-ups hold the key for glaucoma detection since the disease affects a patient without noticeable symptoms. Early detection and awareness are the best ways to keep the eyes safe from glaucoma.
As World Glaucoma Day is approaching, let's understand the causes of this disease and how we can prevent it or reduce the risk.
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that cause optic nerve damage. The primary culprit in the case of glaucoma is intraocular eye pressure that can damage the nerve fibres in the optic nerve. This can cause blind spots which remain permanently. When it is left untreated, glaucoma can progress further and result in total blindness.
The importance of routine eye check-ups
One of the effective ways to detect and treat glaucoma is through regular eye check-ups. The eye exam usually consists of a measurement of eye pressure, an evaluation of the optic nerve, the drainage angle of the eye and a test of the visual field of each eye.
An early eye examination can help an ophthalmologist to detect certain changes in the eye that might hint at the development of early-stage glaucoma. Routine eye check-ups can also help in the detection of co-morbidities such as diabetes and hypertension.
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It is equally important for people who wear spectacles but experience constant discomfort to get their eyes tested. With the pandemic disrupting lives across the globe, screen time for people has increased considerably due to work-from-home routines and online classes. Eye strain and eye problems have become quite common which again emphasise on the importance of regular eye exams. In a country like India where 70 per cent of the population is in the rural areas, awareness of glaucoma makes a lot of difference in the prevention, early detection and management of the disease.
How often an eye check-up is needed
For both kids and adults, a regular eye exam is a crucial part of maintaining overall health and making the vision last for a lifetime. Here's a look at guidelines concerning the timing of the eye test:
Age 6 months
Age 3 years
Age 5 or 6 years Before joining the school and every two years beyond that
Age 18 to 40 years At least every 2 years
Age 41 years and older At least once a year
In case of elderly At least once in a year or in case of any eye-related issues
While routine eye examinations are certainly the way to reduce the burden of glaucoma in the country, awareness and education is the key to increase its prevalence among the public. Eye health education that influences people to take part in regular ophthalmologic care might be a significant step in the early diagnosis of glaucoma. People within the population who are at severe risk for both developing glaucoma and having inadequate knowledge about it need to be recognized and targeted in order to use the resources most efficiently for public education.
World Glaucoma Day is observed every year on March 12 with an aim to eliminate blindness caused by this disease by raising awareness and alerting everyone to have regular eye check-ups to detect it as early as possible.
The article is contributed by Dr. Chanda Hingorani, Glaucoma Consultant at Nuvision Eyecare & Glaucoma Centre, Mumbai.