Glaucoma: Second Leading Cause of Blindness

According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world. Glaucoma is not curable considering the damage to the optic nerve caused by glaucoma is already permanent.

Involving the optic nerve—the cable-like tissue that connects the eye to the brain—glaucoma damages the optic nerve causing it to affect one’s visual field to shrink, eventually causing blindness.

And yet glaucoma remained to be under-diagnosed due to the silent nature of the disease and low patient awareness.

There is no single diagnostic test to diagnose glaucoma. A trained eye specialist will consolidate clinical examination findings with functional vision tests to come up with an assessment of glaucoma risk. If a diagnosis is made, regular and life-long follow-up is required for adequate monitoring of the disease.

Individuals with the following risk factors should watch out as they have a higher chance of developing glaucoma: having high eye pressure (as measured in a routine eye exam), family history of glaucoma, age over 45, previous eye injury, chronic steroid use, diabetes mellitus, and probably most alarming to Filipinos, Asian descent.

Experts believe that once the vision becomes blurry, and pain is already felt in the eye, it’s time to visit an ophthalmologist/eye doctor right away. Another concern is the fact that older Filipinos do not consider glaucoma as a personal health issue, even though their age alone puts them at higher risk.

Moreover, many Filipinos do not visit their eye doctors often enough, and may not always get their eye pressure measured. This test employs a tonometer, which either rests against your eye’s (numbed) surface or sends a puff of air onto the cornea.

The Philippine Glaucoma Society believes that Filipinos must be educated about the potential outcomes of poor adherence and motivated to proactively address their individual challenges. The public should remember that glaucoma rarely has warning signs—up to 40 percent of one’s vision can disappear without realizing it. This vision loss, while avoidable through early diagnosis, is irreversible once it presents itself.

At the moment there is no cure for glaucoma. However, blindness caused by glaucoma can also be prevented, provided it is detected at an early stage as there are treatments such as medicine or surgery that can slow the progression of vision loss.

The only way glaucoma can be detected is by regular comprehensive eye exams, which should begin after reaching the age of 40.

Considering there are several types of glaucoma, one should be warned of the different symptoms. The most common types of glaucoma, called the primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma may have completely different symptoms.

For primary open-angle glaucoma one should be alerted of the gradual loss of peripheral vision, usually in both eyes. Tunnel vision only occurs in the advanced stages. For acute angle-closure glaucoma, one should watch out for the occurrence of severe eye pain; nausea and vomiting (accompanying the severe eye pain); sudden onset of blurred vision; halos around lights; as well as reddening of the eye.

To help address this critical situation, the Philippine Glaucoma Society in partnership with multi-specialty health care company, Allergan, has organized glaucoma awareness activities during World Glaucoma Week Glaucoma to be held on March 12 to 16, 2012. Numerous glaucoma forums for lay people as well as glaucoma screening activities will be held in selected hospitals and eye centers countrywide to examine the misperceptions and behaviors that often stand in the way of optimal diagnosis and care.

Philippine Glaucoma Society is the internationally recognized leader in providing quality glaucoma care in the Philippines through education, exchange of ideas, research and publication.

In partnership with the medical community, Allergan bring scientific excellence and rigor to deliver leading products that addresses glaucoma, and Allergan go above and beyond this to provide education and information, with the highest level of integrity, that helps patients to fully understand the choices available to them and make well-informed treatment decisions with their doctors.

Notwithstanding the increasing worldwide prevalence of glaucoma, both the Philippine Glaucoma Society and Allergan believe that blindness from the disease can still be prevented thru early diagnosis and treatment.