On March 6 to 12, 2022, we observed World Glaucoma Week, a global initiative of the World Glaucoma Association to raise awareness about the condition.
Glaucoma is among the leading causes of blindness worldwide, but your eyesight can be saved with early detection and management.
According to Asian Eye Institute glaucoma specialist Dr. Edgar Leuenberger, glaucoma results from damage to the optic nerve.
The optic nerve serves a very important function, and that is to send light signals to our brain so we can see. If it gets damaged, it will likely lead to permanent blindness,” he says.
How does the optic nerve get damaged? Leuenberger explains: “There is a fluid called aqueous humor that flows into and out of our eye through a drainage system. But if this drainage system is not working, this fluid builds up and increases the eye pressure. Constant and abnormally high eye pressure damages the optic nerve.”
The development of glaucoma is slow and painless. Leuenberger notes: “Glaucoma doesn’t have signs or symptoms as it starts, so most glaucoma patients may not notice a change in vision until it is in the advanced stage. And since blindness caused by glaucoma is permanent, we urge patients to get a comprehensive eye exam every year.”
It is important to remember that a comprehensive eye exam is more than just evaluating if you need eyeglasses. It involves a series of tests to measure the eye grade and check the front and back parts of the eye, which includes eye pressure checks.
“We want to see if there are any irregularities in the eye or if there is increase in eye pressure. And if there is, patients will have to undergo further tests to confirm if they have glaucoma. Through this, we can detect it early and recommend the appropriate treatment for them,” says Leuenberger.
There are different treatment options available for glaucoma patients—prescription eye drops, oral medications, laser therapies and other surgical procedures.
The glaucoma specialist explains: “The treatment will depend on the extent of the patient’s eye condition and type of glaucoma. We can do a combination of treatments, with the main goal of lowering the eye pressure and maintaining it at the normal level to prevent blindness.”
Get comprehensive eye exams yearly, especially if you are over 60 years old; have high eye pressure, diabetes, hypertension, high nearsightedness or farsightedness; have had an eye injury or surgery; have taken corticosteroid eye drops for a long time; and have a family member with glaucoma.