Guard against the sneak thief of sight

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Guard against the sneak thief of sight

In the world of ophthalmologists, there is a saying: “Unusually large eyes are not ne­­­­­­cessarily beautiful eyes. It may be a sign of glaucoma.”

Glaucoma, also known as the ‘sneak thief of sight,’ is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide accounting for 67 million victims. In India, it is the third most common ca­use of blindness with about 11.2 million people suffering from this disease and about 1.1 million having lost their vision already. Worse still, glaucoma does not show any symptoms or abnormality till the very end leading to late diagnosis and failed treatment.

On the occasion of Glaucoma Awareness Week, which has been themed ‘Battling Invisible Glaucoma’ this year, let us understand what causes this condition and the preventive steps one can take.

Dr Devindra Sood, Director, Glaucoma Services, Eye Q Super Speciality Eye Hospitals, says, “Glaucoma is basically increased fluid pressure in the eye which damages the optic nerve leading to blindness. There are channels continuously supplying to and withdrawing fluid from our eyes. When, for some reason, the fluid outflow capacity of the eye is reduced, it increases pr­e­­ssure and damages the ne­r­ves. Alternatively, the ne­rves may already be weak and incapable of handling even the normal fluid inflow.”

Glaucoma runs in the family for many because of which one needs to be cautious ab­o­ut a newborn with unusually large eyes – a result of the organ puffing up with fluid pressure. Sometimes, it manifests itself early in the form of adolescence glaucoma, but it largely affects those above 35 years of age. Dr Sanjay Dhawan, director, Ophthalmology, Fortis Healthcare, says, “The causes could range from already existing hypertension, diabetes, asthma, parkinsonism, excessive use of steroids and injury to the eye, head or face.”

“Another reason, which has been detected of late,” adds Dr Devindra is, “Excessive production of fluid in the eye due to consumption of adulterated mustard oil. Low quality Argemona Mexicana mixed with mustard oil has been found to cause glaucoma widely.”

A big problem with detection of glaucoma is its sole symptom of blurred vision which victims often assume to be cataract and wait ‘for it to ripen.’ But by the time the ‘cataract’ is ripe, the condition already becomes irreversible.

“The other signs to watch out for,” Dr Harsh Kumar, senior consultant Glaucoma and Cataract, Centre for Sight, says, “Are frequent head­a­ches, seeing coloured rings around bright lights and rapid change in the number of your spectacles. These can be crucial hints in the absence of larger signs.”

The sole relief for patients of glaucoma is that its treatm­ent seldom involves invasive procedures. In most patients, the problem comes under co­n­­trol with the help of eye dr­o­ps and laser treatment. Un­­f­o­rtunately, there is no un­­­­­­doing the damage caused by glaucoma.

“Protecting yourself from lifestyle disorders like diabe­tes, preventing injury to the eyes and the face, catching of the faint symptoms early and not delaying visiting a doctor is the only way out,” underlines Dr Kumar. 

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