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Shine a Light on Glaucoma: A Week of Awareness in March 2024

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World Glaucoma WeekWorld Glaucoma Week 2024 this year falls in the first full week of March, between the 3rd and 9th of the month. This year will be the 14th observance of the week since its launch in 2010 by the World Glaucoma Patient Association, which aims to better the lives of patients living with glaucoma. Also participating is the World Glaucoma Association, which is affiliated with almost 100 national and international Glaucoma Societies. The primary purpose of the week is to provide a forum for professionals and patients to join their efforts in order to enhance eye health, thanks to a more comprehensive approach to the implications of glaucoma. One of the most important facts to they draw awareness to is that glaucoma has a solid hereditary element. So, if any other members of your family have ever been diagnosed or treated for glaucoma, it is advisable to regularly visit a qualified healthcare provider in order to detect and treat it early.

About Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a progressive disease in which damage is caused to the optic nerve when intraocular pressure rises. This can result in the breakdown of signaling between the light-sensitive cells at the back of the eye and the brain, resulting in partial or complete blindness in one or both eyes. Glaucoma is incurable. Once any part of the optic nerve has been damaged, lost vision cannot be restored. It is estimated that approximately 3 million Americans are currently being treated for glaucoma, and the number is projected to at least double by 2050. Without proper early treatment, most of these people may go blind. There are several forms of glaucoma, and treatments differ depending on both the type and progression of nerve damage. The primary types of glaucoma are:
  • Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form. “Open” refers to the angle between the cornea and the iris through which fluids drain out of the anterior chamber. In this condition, the angle remains open, but the eye’s drainage canals slowly become clogged, leading to increased eye pressure and the resultant optic nerve damage. The damage to the optic nerve develops slowly and is a lifelong and incurable condition. Many people don’t notice a change in vision until the damage is significant.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma (also called angle-closure glaucoma) is an urgent condition when the iris bulges forward to narrow or completely block the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris. When this happens, the intraocular pressure rises very quickly in an acute attack, with sudden symptoms such as severe eye pain, nausea, red eyes, and blurred vision. Closed-angle glaucoma is an emergency and requires immediate treatment to prevent blindness.
  • Low-pressure glaucoma (also called normal tension glaucoma) can develop in which optic nerve damage is not directly caused by increased intraocular pressure. Instead, it is believed to result from reduced blood flow to the optic nerve. People with this type of glaucoma may be more sensitive to changes in eye pressure, and treating this form of glaucoma often focuses on lowering intraocular pressure even further to prevent any possible progression of damage to the optic nerve.
  • Congenital glaucoma is the result of some developmental abnormality before birth. It is often accompanied by other defects, such as abnormally large eyes and cloudy corneas.
  • Secondary glaucoma is the result of an injury or complication arising from medical treatment such as surgery for cataracts, tumors, or other eye conditions.

The focus of World Glaucoma Week 2024

The main activities that the week focuses on are: Awareness – World Glaucoma Week is trying to make more people aware of the need to take action against glaucoma before it is too late. Medical professionals and the general public are encouraged to share knowledge of the condition. The main symptoms that people are encouraged to watch out for are:
  • Lower sensitivity to light, as if there is not enough ambient light
  • Deterioration in vision
  • Blurry vision, especially in peripheral vision (side vision)
  • Development of blind spots in peripheral vision
  • Experiencing difficulty with regular daily tasks that require concentrated vision, such as driving and screen viewing. 
Encouraging regular eye examination – early detection is critical to reducing the effects and spread of glaucoma. World Glaucoma Week 20204 aims to create a sense of priority concerning regular eye pressure and general eye tests. Intraocular pressure measurement is a simple procedure performed inside a doctor’s or optometrist’s rooms on a special device without any preparation. It is entirely painless and produces the results immediately.

Treating glaucoma

There are several treatment options, and doctors select the most appropriate one according to the type of glaucoma and the level of severity.
  • Open-angle glaucoma is typically treated with medicated eye drops designed to lower eye pressure. The eye drops help the fluids drain or reduce the eye’s production of fluids. Examples are Vyzula, Trusopt, Simbrinza, Lumigan, Combigan, and Simbrinza.
  • Closed-angle glaucoma may require surgical treatment to either unblock the eye’s drainage or create a new drainage point. Options include laser therapy, which is usually followed by eye drops.
It’s important to understand that any damage done to the optic nerve in glaucoma is irreversible. Treatments are aimed at preventing further damage and can’t restore lost vision.
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