What will you do if after years of enjoying the beauty of the world through your eyes, you wake up one day and realize your eyes are failing or have failed you? It could be a major life-changing event. You may even run the risk of causing accidents. Imagine what one goes through during the DUM phase of DUMSOR. Now imagine life perpetually in DUM. All this could be prevented if you make time to care for your eyes: check your eye pressures and have your sight checked as well.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve (nerve of the eye) leading to loss of vision. It is most often but not always associated with an increase in eye pressure.
In Ghana, glaucoma is a leading cause of blindness second only to cataract. Ghana appears to have many challenges with “vision” (note the pun) as we have been identified as the country with the second (some data quote third) highest prevalence rate of glaucoma.
Glaucoma is sometimes referred to as the “silent thief of sight” because it can damage your vision so gradually that you may not notice any loss of vision until the disease is at an advanced stage. The most common type of glaucoma, primary open-angle glaucoma has no noticeable signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. As always the key is to be diagnosed early and managed since this can prevent or minimize damage to the optic nerve. Early diagnosis is only possible if we have regular check-ups. I checked my eye-pressures two months ago, what about you?
ISOLATING THE RISK FACTORS
1. Age - Anyone can get glaucoma but it most often occurs in those above forty years.
2. Ethnicity – Africans and African-Americans are at an increased risk compared to Caucasians. In high risk groups it may be necessary to have your eyes checked even in your 20s.
3. Family History/ Genetics – You are at an increased risk if a member of your family has glaucoma.
4. Medical Conditions – Diabetics and people with hypothyroidism at also prone
5. Nearsighted/shortsighted – For this group of people, objects in the distance appear fuzzy without corrective lenses.
6. Prolonged Steroid use – especially if used as eye drops, increases our risk for glaucoma.
7. Other Eye conditions – Severe eye injury, some of which may even cause the eye lens to dislocate. Retinal detachment, eye tumours and some eye infections may also predispose us. Some eye surgeries may occasionally trigger glaucoma.
RECOGNISING THE WARNING SIGNS
It is important to drum home the point that just as in high blood pressure, there may be no warning signs. As stated above the commonest form of glaucoma will hardly warn you. In some forms of glaucoma however we may experience the following:
1. Gradual loss of peripheral(side) vision leading to tunnel vision where one is able to see only objects directly in front of him/her
2. Redness of the eye
3. Blurred vision
4. Halos around lights
5. Severe eye pain sometimes associated with nausea and vomiting
6. Sudden onset of poor vision especially in low light
OVERVIEW OF TESTS AVAILABLE
1. Measuring eye pressure. This is a simple painless procedure. It is often the first line for screening for people with glaucoma.
2. Visual Field Test – your doctor will use this test to determine whether glaucoma has affected your peripheral vision
3. Several other tests are available and include; testing for optic nerve damage and measuring corneal thickness.
There is NO CURE for glaucoma but it can be successfully managed. Our options include eye drops, oral medication or surgery, which reduce pressure in the eye to a level that is unlikely to cause further optic nerve damage.
You may not be able to prevent glaucoma but you can avoid its complications if diagnosed and its management started early. Talk to your healthcare professional and have eye examinations when necessary. This is the only way to ensure that you can “…see clearly now the rain is gone. I can see all obstacles in my way” and you will enjoy this great vision for years to come.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Moms’ Health Club/Health Essentials
Dr. Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy and fitness nutrition.
Thought for the week – “Tuesday December 1st is WORLD AIDS DAY and as we are getting to ZERO this year we will be ENGAGING YOUTH VOICES IN THE RESPONSE TO HIV & AIDS.”
2. Mosby’s ACE the BOARDS
4. Giant Food Stores “Health Tips”
5. Johnny Nash – lyrics of “I can see clearly now”