World Glaucoma Week: 10 -16 March 2019

10 March 2019

Glaucoma – the “sneak thief of sight”

World Glaucoma Week takes place this year between March 10 -16, its purpose to raise awareness of the disease - glaucoma being the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.

Mr Usman Sarodia a Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at Spire Leicester Hospital with special expertise in glaucoma and cataract surgery said:

"Glaucoma affects one’s ability to work, drive and enjoy normal everyday activities. In the elderly it is associated with an increased risk of falls and as the population grows older, the number of people with glaucoma is rising.

Worryingly, in the Western World, only half of all glaucoma is ever diagnosed. Around 2% of people over 40 have glaucoma and this rises to almost 1 in 10 of those over the age of 75.

Once diagnosed, patients with glaucoma require lifelong treatment and monitoring. Vision lost from glaucoma is irreversible and therefore prevention, or at least minimising any further deterioration, is of paramount importance if patients are to have a sighted lifetime.

To maximise the chance of preventing blindness, early detection is key. Glaucoma is often initially suspected during routine eye tests at the optician so a regular eye test is therefore essential.

The 3 tests for diagnosing glaucoma are:
1) measurement of the pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure)
2) assessment of the optic nerve for signs of structural damage, and a
3) functional assessment with a visual field test.

Treating glaucoma
Patients with glaucoma can be successfully treated to prevent further vision loss. Traditionally, treatment for most patients has been with eye drops but laser treatment is increasingly being used as first line treatment for glaucoma. Selective Laser Trabeculoplasty or SLT is also effective in patients with established glaucoma when lowering the pressure in the eye further is required, or where problems are experienced with glaucoma drops. SLT is available at Spire Leicester Hospital where it has been used successfully for the last 5 years.

An alternative to drops and laser is surgical management of glaucoma. Locally we have been using the modern ‘Safe Surgery’ trabeculectomy technique, and have been able to maximise success whilst minimising complications. In an audit of over 200 procedures, successful intraocular pressure control was achieved in over 90% and in almost 85% of patients, this was without the use of further eye drops.

Glaucoma is a common cause for blindness - yet it is preventable. Using modern techniques for assessment, early detection is possible and appropriate treatment and regular monitoring should protect most people from blindness in their lifetime".

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