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Glaucoma – A silent thief of sight that should not be overlooked

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organisation, glaucoma is the second-leading cause for blindness in the world, which took away eyesight from approximately 2% of the global population. Glaucoma is a serious eye disease, which damages the nerve on the retina, creating irreversible vision and visual field loss (visual field means how wide is being seen when the eye is not moving). Glaucoma patients would have a narrowing visual field, which would end up in tunnel vision, and eventually blindness.

There are ACUTE and CHRONIC subtypes of glaucoma. Acute glaucoma is due to the rapid increase of eye pressure, causing headache, eye pain, nausea, and seeing halos. These symptoms can hardly be missed. In contrast, chronic glaucoma can be asymptomatic, especially in the early stage only the peripheral visual field is damaged. When the narrowing of visual field is subjectively noticed, the condition could have been worsened to intermediate, or even advance stage. Even in developed countries, more than a half glaucoma paitents did not know they had the disease before an eye check, according to a research study.

To date, the cause of glaucoma is still controversial. Unfortunately, despite plenty of work that had been done, glaucoma still remains incurable. Currently, glaucoma patients could reduce the eye pressure by means of medications or surgical interventions to control the rate of deterioration. The latest research studies are aiming at developing medications and supplements to protect the nerve on the retina, i.e. neuroprotection.

To protect the vision from the “stealthy” glaucoma, regular eye check items, including vision, eye pressure, retinal health, and visual field assessment, could provide invaluable information to optometrists to discover and treat glaucoma at an early stage. For high risk populations, including high myopes, familay history of glaucoma, elderlies, diabetes, and hypertension, regular eye check is more crucial to rule out the opportunity of having glaucoma. In recent years, the School of Optometry in HKPU has been working to effectively diagnose glaucoma at an earlier stage, hoping these patients could get proper treatment as soon as possible.

 

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