Glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve of the eye, is a potentially blinding disease. But, there are many misconceptions surrounding it. On World Glaucoma Day, observed annually on March 12, let us demystify some of them, courtesy Dr Smriti Jain, opthalmologist, Practo.
Myth #1: Glaucoma affects only elderly people
Fact: While the incidence of glaucoma is higher among the elderly, glaucoma can affect anybody at any age, even newborns. It is important to get regular eye examinations even when you are young and have no apparent eye problems to ensure glaucoma is detected early. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed, so early detection is crucial.
Myth #2: If I have good vision, I do not have glaucoma
Fact: This is a huge misconception. Most types of glaucoma will not have any symptoms and the vision may also be 6/6 till late stages which is why glaucoma is called the “silent thief of sight”. Often people are surprised when the diagnosis of glaucoma is made. The later the disease is diagnosed and treated, the worse the long-term outcome.
Myth #3: No one in my family has glaucoma, so I won’t get the disease.
Fact: While a family history of glaucoma is a risk factor for developing this eye disease, there are many glaucoma patients who do not have anybody in their family who has glaucoma. Sometimes family history may not be there because all family members were never properly examined for glaucoma which is why it is important that all patients who are diagnosed with glaucoma get their family members examined for it.
Myth #4: Glaucoma is there only if I have high IntraOcular Pressure (IOP).
Fact: While most people with glaucoma will have high IntraOcular Pressure (IOP) or fluid pressure in the eyes, and it is definitely a risk factor, many patients may never have an increased IOP and yet have a severe type of glaucoma called ‘Normal Tension Glaucoma’. On the other hand, some people with high IOP may not have Glaucoma – this is called Ocular Hypertension.
Myth #5: There is no cure for glaucoma so no point in taking treatment
Fact: Vision already lost due to glaucoma cannot be recovered but treatment can stop glaucoma progression and prevent further loss of vision. Glaucoma is a progressive disease where constant monitoring and therapy is required otherwise it can lead to blindness. It is extremely important to get proper treatment from a glaucoma specialist and not just a general eye doctor.
Myth #6: If my glaucoma is not controlled by medicines and eye drops, I have no other options
Fact: Surgical and laser treatments exist for treating glaucoma when the disease is not controlled by medication and should not be delayed. In certain types of glaucoma e.g. ‘Angle Closure Glaucoma’ which is widely prevalent in India, laser treatment is highly recommended and if not done may lead to progress of the disease to a point of complete loss of vision. Patients with glaucoma must consult a qualified and experienced glaucoma surgeon and get a full understanding of all the options available to them including surgical and laser treatments which general eye doctors may not be aware of.