“Sneak Thief Of Vision”

Siboniso Mawandla | The Republic Mail

Millions of people become blind each year because of a disease called glaucoma, it is estimated that the disease is the cause of blindness of 4.5 million people in the world.

Glaucoma is a disease that affects your eye’s optic nerve and may get worse over time. Without treatment, it may cause damage within a few years and permanent blindness. The disease is the second most common cause of blindness globally, being the cause of 12 percent of blindness in India, and one million in Pakistan.

Glaucoma is caused by buildup of pressure inside the eye. The disease is also hereditary and it may not show until later in life. The disease has however been linked to chronic high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, previous eye trauma and the use of steroids. There are no symptoms for the disease, an eye test is required regularly for diagnosis and treatment before any permanent damage occurs.

“It is a progressive eye disease which may lead to irreversible blindness, usually without warning, until it reaches an advanced stage. It is more prevalent among people over the age of 40”, said Dr. Ramanjit Sihota.

The different treatment techniques for glaucoma is eye drops, laser surgery and oral medication, depending on how severe the disease is. The eye drops are used to reduce the formation of fluid in the eye or increase its outflow. The side effects are allergies, stinging, and redness.

The laser surgery procedure can slightly increase the flow of the fluid from the eye. It is important that you tell your optometrist about any other medication that you are taking as the eye drops can interfere with how other medication work.

The best form of prevention of the disease is regular eye exams. People before the age of 40 should go for eye exams every two to four years, from age 40 to 54 should go every one to three years, from age 55 to 64 every one to two years and those after the age of 65 should go for their eye test every six to 12 months.

Regular eye exams should be taken earlier to prevent permanent blindness. Once a person becomes blind, it is irreversible. Lowering eye pressure may help preserve the sight that you have, if people with glaucoma take their treatment as prescribed and have regular eye exams they do not go blind.