6-12 March is World Glaucoma Week and it is observed around the world to increase awareness about this silent disease of vision. Let us know a little more about this condition.

How do I pronounce ‘Glaucoma’?

The word is pronounced “glaw (rhymes with claw and flaw) – koma (as in coma)”

Is it one disease? 

Actually Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which have one thing in common - increasing eye pressure and progressive damage to the optic nerve.

What is this Eye pressure? Is it the same as Blood Pressure? 

The eye also maintains its pressure. It varies between 10 and 20 mmHg in most eyes. It is different from Blood Pressure.

What is the Optic nerve? 

The optic nerve transmits images from the eye to the brain just like your TV cable. And we know how damage to your cable can result in poor picture quality.

Can I get Glaucoma? 

Glaucoma can affect any person regardless of age, gender, economic status, and personal habits. Some risk factors increase the possibility of developing glaucoma. These are-

  • People who wear high minus or plus spectacle power - High Myopia and Hypermetropia
  • People who are on oral steroid medication or steroid drops
  • Those who have suffered an eye injury (especially with balls or shuttlecocks)
  • Anybody with a close family member diagnosed with glaucoma

How is Glaucoma diagnosed?

Glaucoma is detected by specific tests done by your eye doctor. 

  • The most common test is recording the eye pressure. It can be done painlessly with specific pressure recording devices.We usually record eye pressure for all patients who come for an eye examination(We may not do it for children who find it difficult to cooperate or if one has an eye infection)
  • The other common test is a fundus exam. The eye doctor uses an ophthalmoscope to shine light inside your eye and examines the optic nerve.  Dilatation of the pupil with drops may be necessary to further examine the eye in detail.
  • A more specific test is the computerised Visual Field test done to locate the areas of visual loss due to Glaucoma
  • An advanced test called OCT may also be needed to obtain more detailed information about the status of the optic nerve.

I get my eye power checked regularly in an Optical shop. Will I be safe from Glaucoma?

Optical shops check only your eye power and spectacles. They do not screen you for Glaucoma or any other eye disease. Only a qualified ophthalmologist should screen you for Glaucoma.

What does Glaucoma cause? Why is it a silent thief?

Imagine yourself driving your vehicle on the road looking straight ahead. If a big water tanker drives up by the side to overtake you and you don't notice it till it comes really close - wouldn't you be startled? Well, what saves your skin most times is your peripheral vision which lets you notice people, vehicles or obstacles even without turning your head. Glaucoma affects this peripheral vision and slowly destroys it without your knowledge. 

Glaucoma doesn't cause pain, redness, watering or blurring of your central vision until the very last stages of the disease. Treatment of the disease at its end stage is not only very difficult but also at times, futile.

My relative suffered from Glaucoma once and she had pain, a red eye, and headache with nausea. How do you say it is without any symptom?

As told previously, Glaucoma is a group of diseases. One form can manifest with intense pain and headache. Such symptoms force an individual to seek a doctor early. So the concern is for the painless form of Glaucoma which needs timely diagnosis and management.

Is Glaucoma treatable? Will I lose my sight completely if I have it?

Glaucoma is a treatable condition. Now a number of excellent pressure-controlling eye drops are available which can halt the progress of the disease. Some other forms of treatment like LASERs and surgery may also benefit certain individuals with Glaucoma. 

If diagnosed early and treated promptly Glaucoma can be treated effectively and vision preserved