World Glaucoma Day: What is it and How to Prevent it?

March 12 is World Glaucoma Day. To commemorate it, we tell you what it is and, above all, how you can prevent it.

Close-up of an older man's eye

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LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: Día Mundial del Glaucoma: ¿Qué es y cómo prevenirlo?

Glaucoma is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. For this reason, within the framework of World Glaucoma Day, we review what it is and what its impact is. Likewise, we warn you about its symptoms and how it can be prevented.

What is glaucoma?

According to the World Glaucoma Association (WGA), it is a chronic, progressive and degenerative disorder of the optic nerve, which produces damage to the visual capacity of people who suffer from it. It is important to highlight that when referring to glaucoma as a disorder, it is actually a group of diseases and not a single condition, which makes it difficult to treat.

The optic nerve is in charge of carrying the information from the retina to the brain, who will be in charge of processing it. That is, the optic nerve is what makes vision possible, most damage to this nerve represents a danger to sight. In the case of glaucoma, the damage occurs through the gradual increase in pressure of the fluid in the eye, hence it is a progressive disease. The most important thing at this point is to remember, according to the WGA, that the damage is irreversible.

Main symptoms

According to data from the Mayo Clinic, glaucoma causes different symptoms depending on the stage it is in and the type of glaucoma. The medical center speaks of at least four types of glaucoma: open-angle, angle-closure, normal-tension, and pigmentary. For the first case, the symptoms are irregular blind spots in the lateral and central field of vision, if it is in a more advanced stage, tunnel vision can even occur, that is, there is only vision in the center of the visual field.

In the case of angle-closure glaucoma, the symptoms are: eye and headache pain, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, halos around lights, and red eyes. The progression of the disease is slow, the clinic indicates that in approximately 20 years a person with glaucoma without proper treatment could lose vision. It is a silent condition, in cases such as normal tension glaucoma, the patient could have an advanced stage before presenting clear symptoms.

The big question is who is at risk for developing it. The answer is that it is a disease that mainly affects people over 40 years of age, mainly in people of African descent, Asian and Latino origin. This places Latin America as one of the places with the highest risk of suffering from glaucoma. The hereditary issue is also relevant to this disease. Those with a family history are more likely to develop it. Also, eye injuries, as well as surgery or use of eye drops increase the possibilities.

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Why do we have a World Glaucoma Day?

In the world, it is estimated that 80 million people live with glaucoma, according to the WGA, but more than 50% of them are unaware that they have the condition. So there is a potential of 40 million people in the world who could lose their vision. Although its effects are irreversible, it is possible to slow its progress through treatment and prevention. Hence the importance of detecting glaucoma in early stages, it could be the difference between losing vision or not. The work of the WGA and other medical associations seek to raise awareness, World Glaucoma Day is just one of the mechanisms to spread the impact of the disease in the world.

Prevention, essential against glaucoma

Although the vision lost due to glaucoma cannot be recovered, its progress can be slowed down to prevent immediate damage. Therefore, obtaining a diagnosis is essential to be able to take actions that in the long term will allow the patient to protect their sight. The WGA recommends having a dilated eye exam every two to four years if you're younger than 40, every two to three years if you're between 40 and 60, or every one to two years if you're older than 60. where the prevalence is higher.

You must take into account your family history, age, ethnicity and symptoms to be alert to any suspicion. Always remember to be in communication with your doctor, who will determine the ideal time for you to perform the exam. As with other diseases, it is important to perform frequent physical activity according to your age, since exercise reduces eye pressure. Eye health is important, that is, avoiding bumps, irritation and poor sleep habits or exposure to adverse conditions that impact eye health.

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