11, March 2010
By Umesh Isalkar
Glaucoma – a disease of the damaged optic nerve leading to progressive, irreversible loss of vision – is the second cause of blindness after cataract, say experts. What’s more, prevalence of glaucoma has risen to 17 per cent from earlier 12 per cent, from 2006 onwards, primarily due to increased detection methods, according to eye experts in the city.
“As per the Vision 2020 action plan of the World Health Organisation, the prevalence of glaucoma has increased to 17 per cent as against 10 to 12 per cent of total blind population from 2006 onwards. This is primarily due to the high number detection centres and grant in aid provided by the Union government in the 11th five–yea plan (2007–11),” ophthalmologist Col Madan Deshpande, chief medical director, H V Desai eye hospital told TOI.
Elaborating, Ashok Mahadik, district ophthalmic surgeon, said, “The chances of developing glaucoma after 40 years of age is quite high. Besides, people suffering from diabetes also has high chances of developing the ailment.” Other risk factors include raised pressure inside the eye (intraocular pressure), a positive family history, and so on, added Mahadik.
Elaborating on treatment methods, Deshpande said, “Primary open–angle glaucoma cannot be prevented, but acute attacks of primary angle–closure glaucoma and more chronic forms of the disease can be prevented by early detection, followed by laser treatment or surgery to the iris.”
“Glaucoma is the second cause of blindness after cataract,” said Tatyarao Lahane, an eye surgeon at the staterun J J hospital in Mumbai, who created a world record by performing 10,0000 cataract operations in his career.
As the early stages of all glaucomas are asymptotic, patients often present late. Once vision is lost, it cannot be restored, added Mahadik.
- WHO estimates that 4.5 million people are blind due to glaucoma
- Published projections indicate that 4.5 million people will be blind due to open–angle glaucoma and 3.9 million due to primary angle–closure glaucoma in 2010
- About 60.5 million people will have glaucoma by the year 2010
- Given the ageing of the world’s population, this number may increase to almost 80 million by 2020
- Research on glaucoma is being conducted internationally
- New anti–glaucoma drugs have been developed, and new treatment options are being evaluated
- Glaucoma–associated visual impairment and blindness remain difficult to prevent because of the lack of methods to identify persons who are likely to develop substantial visual loss
- There is lack of awareness in the community about glaucoma and the threat it poses to vision
- Early diagnosis of primary open–angle glaucoma is difficult, as no single test is sufficiently sensitive or specific for screening populations for glaucoma
- Assessment for glaucoma of all adults attending eye units is not routine practice everywhere
- Primary open–angle glaucoma is more frequent in whites and Afro–Caribbean, while primary angle–closure glaucoma is more common in south–east Asia