Glaucoma: Silent sight thief –By Blessing John Moses
The human eye is a very sensitive and delicate organ which needs to be properly taken care of in order to avoid damages.
There are various conditions that threaten the human eye which glaucoma is one that causes an irreversible blindness and it is the second leading cause of blindness after cataract.
The medical understanding of the nature of glaucoma has changed profoundly in the past few years and a precise comprehensive definition and diagnostic criteria are yet to be finished.
Glaucoma can therefore be regarded as a group of diseases that has a common end-point, a characteristic of optic neuropathy which is determined by both structural change and functional deficit.
Glaucoma is a term which relates to a group of conditions that can be classified in a variety of ways but all of which are characterized by optic nerve damage(which is often referred to as cupping)and field loss(often with an acute pattern of mid-peripheral loss),secondary to retinal ganglion cell damage and death.
There are various types of glaucoma but the two most common are: the primary open angle glaucoma(POAG) and the angle closure glaucoma(ACG)which is less common and tends to be more serious.
The World Health Organization in 2002, gathered statistics which show that, glaucoma is now the second leading cause of irreversible blindness globally after cataract.
However, glaucoma presents even greater public health challenges than cataract because the blindness it causes is ‘irreversible’, according to Dr .Daniel E. Osazuwa, founder of Insight Eyecare Foundation.
Statistics has it that, in Africa, the prevalence of glaucoma is 1-2% but can rise to about 10%in the Caribbean.
About 37million people worldwide in 2002 were blind, more than 82% of all blind people are 50years and above, as contained in the Bulletin of WHO, volume 82:2004.
It has been estimated by the WHO that by the year 2020, there will approximately be about 80million people with glaucoma worldwide, an increase of about 20million since 2010.
In the submission of Dr.Brian Chinedu of Gombe State presently, over 3million people are blind due to glaucoma, a figure that is set to rise to 3.2million by 2020 with the increasing prevalence, unless improved screening and effective treatment strategies are successful.
Glaucoma is called the ‘silent thief of sight’ because it is a progressive form of vision loss, as the nerves that connect the retina to the brain (nerve fiber or glanglion cell)is the one being attacked. Glaucoma affects all age range, even children.
For that of children it is called congenital glaucoma and is inherited from parents, but it mostly affects people from 40years and above.
Causes of glaucoma include Plahypertension…if the pressure of the eye is too much…if the amount of pressure that is produced in the eye is high, it causes glaucoma.
When there is blockage in the outlet….,it makes the pressure to overflow.
Hypoxia is another cause, which talks about the insufficiency of oxygen in the eye since the nerve fibres need oxygen to survive, so insufficiency causes glaucoma which makes the nerve fibers begin to die on their own. All the two are however caused by ocular hypertension.
The first risk factors of glaucoma can be generic, that is, when one is born with it.
Age also is a risk factor because people from the age of 40 and above are very prone to having glaucoma Being black is also another risk factor because of the melanin pigment that is contained in the black race.
People with diabetes and hypertension are also prone to having glaucoma Trauma; here, when something hits the eye making its pressure to go up, it can cause glaucoma.
Glaucoma is said to be the ‘’silent thief of sight’’ this is because it comes with no symptoms,and it starts damaging the eyes from the sides of the which makes the patient not to feel any pain or itching…people do not get to know they have glaucoma until the end stage.
There have been instances where people accompany others to come and check their eyes but end up being glaucoma victims while the people they brought had no issues with their eyes.
One thing about glaucoma is its medications are very expensive thereby making patients to be discouraged from treating it, which most times are the major reasons patients go blind because of the financial constraint.
The goal of glaucoma management is to save the vision that is left and not to restore the lost one. Over time, we have come to see that one of the drawbacks in glaucoma management especially on the part of patients is the fact that when they keep using the medications and they do not get improvement, they get discouraged and abandon the drugs.
One thing glaucoma patients do not know is that even when they are blind they still need the medications because if the drugs are not being used and the pressure goes up, the pressure can go into the brain and cause intraocular pressure which can lead to death.
According to doctors, it is advisable to always visit an eye clinic for a general eye checkups, because early detection is the key to fighting irreversible blindness caused by glaucoma therefore it is it is advised that all those below 40years of age should go for eye check up at least once in 2years, those from 40years and above should go for a general eye check up annually.
If you have any family history of glaucoma, try and check yourself annually even when you are below 40years and if you have been diagnosed of glaucoma or you are a glaucoma suspect, make it every 6months and you should make sure you are being attended to by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist because they are the only ones who can detect glaucoma or any eye related challenges.
Moses, is a student of Mass Communications, Bayero University, Kano