The most unfortunate part of Glaucoma is that it creeps up on you silently. People do not realize that their vision is affected until it’s too late.
Glaucoma is one of the main causes for blindness in older people and is hence considered a disease of the elderly. There are quite a few myths and misconceptions about glaucoma that must be busted
Myth #1: GLAUCOMA OCCURS ONLY IN OLD PEOPLE.
While most often glaucoma related blindness is diagnosed amongst the elderly, the condition can occur in younger individuals too. Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions caused when the optic nerve is damaged. The condition can occur even in infants and young children who have other eye conditions or physical abnormalities. A regular trip to the ophthalmologist can prevent vision loss due to glaucoma.
Myth #2: THE ONLY REASON FOR GLAUCOMA IS HIGH EYE PRESSURE.
Not necessarily. Glaucoma is caused when the optic nerve is damaged. High eye pressure does damage the optic nerve leading to glaucoma. But it is not the only cause. Elevated eye pressure occurs when there is a build-up of aqueous humour (eye fluid) in the eye. Normally this fluid is naturally drained out, but in some cases due to overproduction or blockages in the draining system, the fluid builds up in the eye. Over time, this builds up damages the optic nerve, gradually leading to vision loss. In some cases, the optic nerve gets damaged due to physical injury to the eye. People with a thin cornea are also susceptible to glaucoma.
Myth #3: GLAUCOMA CAN BE CURED WITH SURGERY
Unfortunately, this is not the case. An individual must take steps to prevent glaucoma or detect it earlier on to get treated effectively. However, once the degeneration has set in and vision disturbances have begun, treatment can only help delay the progression of the disease but not cure it. Hence even after surgery one has to periodically follow up to monitor the eye pressure and optic nerve status.
Myth #4: PEOPLE WITH PERFECT VISION CANNOT GET GLAUCOMA
This is not true. The most unfortunate part of Glaucoma is that it creeps up on you silently. People do not realize that their vision is affected until it is too late. This is because one eye can compensate for any defects in the peripheral vision of the other eye. The only way glaucoma can be detected is through a proper examination of the optic nerve. The ophthalmologist examines the optic nerve for damage or degeneration and does functional assessment of optic nerve by means of perimetry.
Myth #5: VISION LOSS DUE TO GLAUCOMA IS REVERSIBLE
As mentioned earlier, an individual with glaucoma will not even realize that his vision is deteriorating until it is too late. Glaucoma Treatment at this point can only delay the progress of the disease but not stop it. This means that vision loss is not reversible. And if left untreated, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness. So early diagnosis and treatment helps in preserving vision.
RISK FACTORS FOR GLAUCOMA:
Glaucoma treatment depends on how much the condition has progressed in the individual. Eye Drops may be prescribed to help drain the fluid build-up in the eye and reduce eye pressure. There are oral medicines also available to reduce intraocular pressure in case eye drops are not sufficient. Eye pressure can also be lowered through Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery, Laser Therapy, or a Filtering Surgery. The doctor may also perform a procedure that involves inserting a small tube shunt into your eye to drain excess fluid.
The only way to prevent Glaucoma is to get regular eye tests as prescribed by the doctor irrespective of whether you have 20/20 vision or not.
CONSULTANT – OPHTHALMOLOGIST
MBBS, DNB, FMRF, FICO