By Rose Welimo
Glaucoma Specialist is warning that anybody is at risk of becoming blind from Glaucoma. In Kenya over 20, 000 cases of Glaucoma are reported every year.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that causes irreversible damage of the optic nerve, loss of vision field and it is a leading cause of blindness worldwide.
Dr Sheila Marco Consultant Ophthalmologist and Glaucoma Specialist at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Kenya says the only way to detect and treat glaucoma early is by going for regular eye screening by an eye specialist particularly for the people at a higher risk.
Dr Marco says, “There are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk of contracting the disease. These include those with a history of glaucoma in the family, adults over 35 years of age, African race, high IOP, myopia (shortsightedness) and diabetes mellitus.”
In a press statement the doctor adds, “If a member of a family has glaucoma, it is advisable for the other family members to see an ophthalmologist for eye checkups.”
According to Dr Marco, one of the signs of glaucoma is worsening of the peripheral vision or the appearance of “blindspots”. This can be realized by a patient when they are not able to see stairs clearly as they walk down stairs, or bump into people as they are not able to see them.
In some cases, a driver may fail to notice vehicles on either side of his or her car which indicates an advanced case of glaucoma. As the optic nerve is an extension of the brain, treatment by surgery is currently not available but extensive research is being carried out to develop new treatments for glaucoma.
She says that a baby suffering from glaucoma at birth usually has bulging and swollen eyes. About one in10,000 babies have glaucoma and parents noticing symptoms are advised to seek help from an ophthalmologist.
“Early detection and appropriate therapy of glaucoma can significantly improve a child’s future life and vision. Treatment involves careful evaluation under general anesthesia,” she says.
With the exception of babies born with congenital glaucoma, there is usually no warning, or obvious symptoms of the disease which has led to glaucoma being described as the ‘sneak thief of sight’.
The intraocular pressure (IOP) is measured and treatment by surgery can be carried out at the same time which reduces subjecting the child to multiple sessions of general anaesthesia.
A doctor will measure the pressure of the eye and examines the optic nerve in the eye. If necessary a visual field test will be performed. The main goal of treatment is to reduce the IOP to a safe level and prevent further loss of vision.