The thief of sight
To mark World Glaucoma Week, the Institut de la Màcula conducted an awareness campaign in conjunction with Farmaoptics and the Teknon Medical Centre. We describe its most important features below.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease of the optic nerve that, if untreated, leads to irreversible deterioration in vision that can cause blindness. It has a prevalence of 2% in the over 40s. At present, it is the second cause of blindness in the world.
There are two types of glaucoma, depending on whether the eye’s filtering system (camerular angle) is open or not: Open-angle glaucoma and narrow-angle glaucoma.
Principal risk factors
The most common risk factor tends to be intraocular pressure that is higher than the structure of the optic nerve can withstand. This leads the nerve to lose fibres and the patient’s peripheral vision to be affected. 70% of cases are usually associated with a high intraocular pressure while 30% correspond to normal pressures in sensitive eyes.
Other risk factors include: myopia, thin corneas, race and the taking of corticoids.
In most cases, glaucoma shows no symptoms. The loss of lateral vision that occurs in the disease usually goes unnoticed, particularly at first. Sometimes, patients experience a certain clumsiness on going down stairs or difficulties in recognising obstacles on either side of them. Often they do not relate these with visual problems and therefore many patients do not see a doctor until the disease is very advanced and affects a great part of vision. It is calculated that approximately half of patients with glaucoma are unaware of it.
Glaucoma in initial stages GIVES NO WARNING: THERE ARE NO SYMPTOMS
If UNTREATED, it causes VISION LOSS and BLINDNESS
VISION lost due to glaucoma CANNOT BE RECOVERED
Diagnosis and treatment
At present, it is vital to view the structure and function of the optic nerve in diagnosis and not only to take the patient’s intraocular pressure.
Today, it is impossible to recover the nervous tissue that has been adversely affected prior to diagnosis, but it is possible to prevent the damage to the nerve from progressing. Once the disease is established, the reduction of intraocular pressure is the only treatment capable of halting its progression. To attain this reduction hypotensive eye drops are used at first. If this is not enough, other surgical procedures or lasers can be used.
Glaucoma is a chronic disease that requires lifelong monitoring to ensure that it does not progress.