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World Glaucoma Day 2024: Early signs of eye disease you shouldn’t ignore | Health

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One of the leading causes of blindness in India, Glaucoma is a common eye problem apart from cataract and refractive error that affects 11.9 million people in the country. The disease can start slowly and eventually lead to vision loss if not treated at an early stage. Glaucoma contributes to 12.8% of blindness in India. Our eyes are one of the most important organs in our body and help us to experience and perceive the world around us. However, in today’s times, our eyes are under immense strain due to digital devices. (Also read | World Glaucoma Day 2024: Date, history and significance, and all that you need to know)

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. (Freepik)
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. (Freepik)

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that can cause blindness by damaging a nerve in the back of your eye called the optic nerve. People may begin to lose their peripheral vision first and the changes in the vision may not be noticeable at first. If not addressed, this could lead to blindness. There is no clear and known cause of glaucoma and regular eye examination is a must to detect any eye issue. Many people with glaucoma may have high eye pressure and treatments that lower eye pressure help to slow the disease.

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March 12, 2024, marks World Glaucoma Day, a global initiative aimed at raising awareness about glaucoma, a leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. This condition, often referred to as the ‘silent thief of sight,’ can progress unnoticed until significant vision loss occurs. This day is dedicated to highlighting the significance of early detection and treatment of glaucoma, aiming to mitigate the risks of severe vision loss.

World Glaucoma Day 2024 serves as a vital reminder of the importance of eye health awareness and the need for regular eye check-ups. By understanding glaucoma and recognising its early signs, individuals can take proactive steps toward preserving their vision.

What is glaucoma?

“Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve, the vital link between the eye and the brain, responsible for carrying visual information. This damage is frequently associated with elevated pressure within the eye, known as intraocular pressure (IOP). However, glaucoma can also occur with normal IOP levels, complicating diagnosis and treatment efforts,” says Dr Vineet Sehgal, Senior Consultant, Sharp Sight Eye Hospitals.

“The complexity of glaucoma lies in its ability to remain undetected until it’s advanced. Unlike other conditions, glaucoma begins by affecting peripheral vision subtly, often leaving central vision intact until the later stages. This gradual progression can delay diagnosis and treatment, underscoring the importance of regular eye examinations, especially for those at higher risk,” says Dr Sehgal.

Early signs of glaucoma

Recognising the early signs of glaucoma can be challenging due to its asymptomatic nature in the initial stages. However, certain symptoms may hint at the disease’s onset, says Dr Sehgal.

1. Peripheral vision loss: The earliest sign of glaucoma is often a slight loss of peripheral (side) vision, which might go unnoticed until it significantly worsens.

2. Eye pain and headaches: In acute cases, such as angle-closure glaucoma, individuals may experience sudden eye pain, headaches, and even nausea.

3. Halos around lights: Some may notice halos around lights, especially in dim or dark conditions.

4. Blurred vision: As the disease progresses, one might experience gradual blurring of vision.

5. Red eyes: Eye redness, not linked to irritation or allergies, can also be a warning sign.

6. In few patients frequent change in presbyopic glasses can be an initial symptom

Risk factors and prevention

“While glaucoma can affect anyone, certain factors increase the risk, including age (over 60), a family history of the condition, high intraocular pressure, and existing medical conditions such as diabetes and hypertension, high power of glasses and use of steroids. Regular comprehensive eye exams are crucial for early detection, particularly for those at higher risk,” says Dr Sehgal.

Treatment and management

Although there’s no cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and treatment can significantly slow its progression, preventing major vision loss.

“Treatment options include prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser treatment, or surgery to lower intraocular pressure, depending on the disease’s severity and type,” says the expert.

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