March 17, 2010 – Did you know that Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide? It causes progressive irreversible damage of the optic nerve hence loss of field vision, and is often associated with high pressure in the eye.
Glaucoma is in itself a tricky disease thus often described as the “sneak thief of sight”. It usually does not give warnings or obvious symptoms until marked irreversible loss of vision occurs.
World statistics indicate that this eye disease afflicts more than 67 million people globally, 6.7 million of whom are already blind. In Kenya, over 200,000 people are affected. About 25,000 people are blind from the disease and unfortunately, are not aware of it.
What you should probably know is that anybody can get Glaucoma. But if you get migraines often, are myopic (short sighted), are of African ethnicity and above the age of 40 you are at a higher risk of suffering from the disease.
Other situations include people who have:
– A history of glaucoma in the family
– High Intraocular pressure- above 21 mmHg
– Nocturnal hypotension
– Diabetes Mellitus
– Thyroid disease
For these groups of people, the importance of routine eye examinations cannot be understated. The key for treatment is simply early diagnosis and timely treatment. This probably means that everyone should get an eye check up! As this is the only way to detect and treat it early.
The eye specialist will measure the pressure of the eye, which is also called Intraocular Pressure, and examine the optic nerve in the eye. If necessary, a visual field test will be performed.
The main goal of treatment is to reduce the Intraocular Pressure to a safe level to prevent further loss of vision. This can be done by using pressure lowering eye drops, lasers and a variety of surgical procedures. Once glaucoma is diagnosed and treatment is started, the follow-up with the specialist is life-long.
Is Glaucoma the same as Trachoma?
Many people confuse the two. Trachoma is an infectious disease of the eye caused by the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, which is spread easily by contact with an infected persons hands or clothes, or by flies that have come in contact with the eyes or nose of infected persons.
It is common in overcrowded dwellings and low hygienic standards. Simple measures like washing your face in the morning will ensure one does not contract Trachoma.
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