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Do Indians have a different Glaucoma?

April 5, 2016

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Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases which cause progressive and irreversible damage to the nerve behind the eye (optic nerve). This occurs due to accumulation of a fluid in the eye, causing high eye pressure and can ultimately lead to blindness. There are different kinds of glaucoma. Some glaucomas occur because the drainage channels of the eye do not function well (open angle glaucoma) whereas some occur because the passage that leads to the drainage channels gets narrow (angle closure glaucoma).

glaucoma

Angle-closure glaucoma is of different types. In acute angle-closure glaucoma, the passage closes suddenly, causing sudden rise in the eye pressure and symptoms like severe pain in the eye associated with nausea, headache, blurring of vision and of seeing colored haloes like rainbows around lights. In chronic angle closure glaucoma, the passage closes very slowly over months or years causing no symptoms. One may not notice vision changes till about 50% vision loss occurs. Very few persons may have occasional blurring of vision and may see rainbows around lights. Asians have smaller sized eyes, so the passages for circulation of fluid in the eye are narrower. The chances of developing angle closure is higher among such eyes. What Indians have more often, is an angle closure glaucoma and most often the painless slow progressive type. The presentation of the patient is deceptive and similar to the open angle variety seen in other countries. In order to accurately diagnose this type of glaucoma, a test is carried out called Gonioscopy. It is a simple test where a lens is placed on the eye to check the width of the passages. Unfortunately gonioscopy is not commonly carried out and if glaucoma is not correctly detected, it will not be correctly treated. Detecting this variety of glaucoma is also a problem for patients of Indian origin living in Western countries where this disease is infrequently seen.

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Angle closure glaucoma is treated differently from open angle glaucoma. The main aim of treatment would be to prevent further narrowing of the passages and control the eye pressure. Laser iridotomy is done to treat the narrow passages. It is especially important to undergo a laser in the other eye to prevent narrowing. Eye drops can be used following lasers to control the eye pressure. There are other laser procedures like ALT and SLT carried out in other countries which work poorly in our eyes and are not recommended. Surgery can be performed in eyes where the passages are completely closed. Glaucoma runs in families, so people with a family history of this disease should get their eyes examined at regular intervals.

 – By Dr. Binita Thakore, 

Sr Consultant Ophthalmology and Glaucoma Specialist

 Shalby Hospitals, Ahmedabad.

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