Silent and often asymptomatic, glaucoma is a gradual eye disease that is difficult to identify, which generates changes in eyesight until it is in an advanced stage; it is the second cause of blindness in the world, after cataracts, said Adriana Hernández López, professor at the Faculty of Medicine (FM) of the UNAM.
"It is a neurodegenerative disease that attacks or compromises the optic nerve and in this process, it can have manifestations such as the reduction of the patients' field of vision, and it may or may not be associated with the pressure that the eye manages; that is, ocular hypertension that if sustained, can develop into glaucoma," described the ophthalmologist assigned to the Research Coordination of the Department of Surgery of the FM.
The specialist alerted that it is important to raise awareness on the subject because prevention and timely and personalized diagnosis change the natural course of the disease, which is irreversible. "It is important to visit the ophthalmologist at least once a year to detect it in its early stages," she recommended.
Sometimes it presents symptoms such as redness and pain in the eyes and head, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, and halos around lights.
Glaucoma is multifactorial and is associated with factors such as heredity (if a relative in direct line suffers it, there is up to 10 percent more possibility of presenting it); age (especially after 40 years of age with an important focus at 60); diabetes, hypertension, alterations in triglycerides and cholesterol, tobacco and alcohol consumption; myopia, hyperopia, ocular or cranioencephalic traumatism.
In Mexico, there are about one and a half million people who suffer from glaucoma. Some statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) indicate that in the world there may be up to 60 million.
In the United States, up to 10 million visits to the ophthalmologist per year are reasons for glaucoma follow-up.
"There are racial characteristics that make the African-American and Hispanic populations targets for glaucoma. I would say that Mexicans are more frequently susceptible to this disease".
According to information from the website of the Instituto de Salud para el Bienestar (INSABI), it is the leading cause of blindness in people over 60 years of age, but it can be controlled if detected early.
The problem is that it is estimated that only half of the patients with glaucoma know they suffer from this disease because, at first, it produces no symptoms and it is very difficult for the patient to detect the loss of peripheral vision that occurs in early stages".
Although the age factor is important, it can occur in all stages of life, even in infants.
Treatment may include surgery, laser, or medication, depending on the evolution and severity of the condition. Usually, at first, eye drops are used along with medication to reduce intraocular pressure.