Contrary to common belief, glaucoma, also called kala motia, which causes loss of vision, isn’t a disease associated only with the elderly. Every month, about 10 new glaucoma cases of children and 250 follow-up cases are reported at the Advanced Eye Centre (AEC) of the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research.
Experts say self-medication with steroids and eye injuries are the major causes of glaucoma among children.
Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. Doctors say that 90 per cent cases can be prevented by timely treatment.
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In India, there are an estimated 13 million people suffering from glaucoma, of whom 11 million do not know that they have it. All these people are at the risk of incurable blindness.
At AEC, which gets 1,200 to 1,500 cases of glaucoma among adults every month, one day every week is kept to check glaucoma cases in children.
“Drugs like steroids can increase the eye pressure in certain individuals and this can lead to glaucoma. Be careful to only instil medications prescribed by an eye doctor and that too under supervision. Further, children with weak eyesight must wear only plastic glasses to avoid injuries,” said Dr Sushmita Kaushik, ophthalmologist.
“Glaucoma damages the eye’s optic nerve and this usually happens when the fluid pressure inside the eyes slowly rises. Increasing age (40 above), ethnicity, family history, high myopia and diabetes are the main risk factors of the disease among adults,” she said.
Usually, there are no early symptoms of the disease, due to which it is not detected and leads to complete blindness. “Timely detection is very important, otherwise glaucoma can cause visual damage and possible blindness. The visual damage is irreversible, and this has led to glaucoma being described as the ‘sneak thief of sight’,” said a doctor.
There is no cure for glaucoma as yet, but “medication or surgery (traditional or laser) can slow down further vision loss. Therefore, early detection is essential to limit visual impairment’’, said an expert, adding that, in fact, early detection and careful, lifelong treatment could maintain vision in most people.