Blindness risk can be reduced
As part of the World Glaucoma Week (WGW) 2021, the Malaysian Glaucoma Society organised a Facebook Live Ask Us Anything: Open Discussion session streamed on the World Glaucoma Week, Malaysia Facebook page.
The discussion opened with a video featuring iconic actor and television host Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan, sharing the importance of frequent eye check-ups and early detection.
Moderated by Dr Azlan Azha Musa, the discussion featured speakers from University Malaya Medical Centre, Prof Dr Mimiwati Zahari, Associate Professor Dr Norlina Ramli and Associate Professor Dr Amir Samsudin.
The normal internal eye pressure or intraocular pressure (IOP) ranges from 10-21 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). However, when the IOP increases more than the normal range, it damages the optic nerve, resulting in glaucoma.
The main issue with glaucoma, said Dr Amir, was the lack of symptoms or signs of the disease.
“Usually in the early or intermediate stages, the peripheral vision will slowly diminish. However, there are hardly any glaucoma symptoms at all, and their eyesight is still good and clear. Therefore, most patients are unaware of the deficiencies in their vision,” said Dr Amir.
“Most patients tend to indirectly find the effects of glaucoma when they visit an ophthalmologist or optometrist for checks or screening for other problems such as eye infection or other eye injuries.”
The risk factors
Risk groups identified are those administering high frequency of steroids, increasing age, family history of glaucoma, underlying primary open-angle glaucoma, diabetes mellitus, high or low myopia and those at a young age.
As young people were also susceptible to the disease, Dr Norlina explained: “Although glaucoma is the disease of the elderly, individuals under 40 can get glaucoma, particularly those with positive family history; who had refractive surgery; or those who administer steroids.”
Dr Mimiwati noted that while glaucoma usually occurred when the eye pressure was more than 21 mm Hg, there were some cases where the damage occurred to the optic nerve without eye pressure exceeding the normal range. It was known as normal-tension glaucoma (NTG), low tension or normal-pressure glaucoma.
“Some of the risk factors for NTG are migraine, Raynaud’s phenomenon, and over-treated systemic hypertension,” she explained.
Due to the lack of symptoms, they stressed not taking the disease lightly as it could lead to non-reversible blindness. However, with early detection, the progression can be slowed and delayed.
“When someone is diagnosed with glaucoma, I always tell them to not worry because the risk of becoming blind can significantly be reduced with interventions such as medications or surgery to reduce the IOP,” assured Dr Mimiwati.