More than 70 per cent of glaucoma cases go undetected in India: Experts

Glaucoma: A Silent Threat to Vision in India
Glaucoma: A Silent Threat to Vision in India
Glaucoma: A Silent Threat to Vision in India

New Delhi | Around 11.2 million people aged 40 years and above in India have glaucoma but only 20 per cent of them are aware of it, experts said on the World Glaucoma Day on Tuesday.

The numbers can be more as more than 70 per cent of cases go undetected.

Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve and is the third most common cause of blindness in the country.

It is known as the "sneak thief of sight," because there are no early symptoms. It is also the leading cause of irreversible blindness, affecting more than 80 million (one million=10 lakh) people worldwide.

Dr Ikeda Lal, senior Cornea, Cataract and Refractory Surgery Specialist, at the Delhi Eye Centre and Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here said glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, leading to progressive vision loss.

Glaucoma typically presents with no symptoms in its early stages, making regular eye examinations crucial for early detection.

"However, as the condition progresses, you may experience blurred vision, difficulty adjusting to low light, reduced peripheral (side) vision, and seeing halos around lights. Few patients may even experience eye pain and headache. If you notice any of these symptoms, it's important to see an eye doctor for a comprehensive eye exam," Dr Lal said.

Dr Rohit Saxena, Professor, Dr R P Centre for Ophthalmic Sciences at AIIMS, Delhi said majority of the patients with glaucoma are not aware about their disease as initially it has no symptoms.

"Only when they start losing vision in advanced cases do they seek medical help. Although glaucoma primarily affect the middle-aged and the elderly, it can affect people of all ages. Vision loss in glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve which is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain," Dr Saxena said.

"Vision loss or impairment may be associated with reduced quality of life and decreased ability to perform activities of daily living, including loss of independence, restricted mobility, depression, and anxiety," he stated.

Dr Lal said glaucoma becomes more common with advancing age.

Family history and genetics play a role, with individuals having relatives affected by glaucoma being at a higher risk.

Other factors contributing to glaucoma include elevated eye pressure, certain medical conditions like diabetes, hypertension and prolonged use of steroids, especially without regular monitoring.

Dr Lal said, "While there is no absolute cure for glaucoma, early detection, and treatment is of great importance. This can help in preventing further vision loss. Treatment options may include eye drops to lower intraocular pressure, oral medications, laser therapy, or in severe cases, surgery. With early detection and adherence to treatment, sight can be saved from glaucoma and these patients can have a very good vision for their entire life". Adults older than 40 years, especially those with a family history of glaucoma, must get a comprehensive eye exam every year, including an examination of the retina and the optic nerve

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