Glaucoma: 50% of those affected are unaware of it

On the occasion of World Glaucoma Day, we would like to highlight some of the most important aspects of this silent disease as well as criteria and guidelines to follow to prevent it.

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a serious disease, considered the second leading cause of blindness in developed countries and one of the main causes of blindness in Spain. More than one million Spaniards over the age of 40 suffer from this eye disease.

It is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve and whose main risk factor is high intraocular pressure (IOP) and family history.

However, in most cases the disease is silent until it reaches advanced stages, so that nearly 50% of those affected are unaware that they suffer from it and it is considered “silent blindness”. For this reason, prevention and screening campaigns for this pathology are essential.

What types of glaucoma are there?

There are different types of glaucoma, but the most prevalent ones fall into two main groups: primary chronic open-angle glaucoma (PCAG) and acute angle-closure glaucoma (ACAG).

CAAGG is the most frequent in Spain and in most cases it is asymptomatic and is discovered in a routine ophthalmology check-up.

In contrast, CAAG presents with halo vision, intense ocular pain, red eye and nausea. Patients who suffer an acute attack of glaucoma go to the emergency department where they are diagnosed and treated.

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Although it is the GAAG that should be detected in routine glaucoma consultations, it is also possible to prevent acute glaucoma attacks in predisposed subjects by means of a simple laser treatment applied in the office. Therefore, in both cases prevention is essential.

Other less frequent types of glaucoma are normotensive (suffering from the disease despite normal IOP), secondary to previous surgeries, secondary to ocular trauma, infantile or inflammatory.

What are the risk factors?

The risk factors for developing glaucoma are:

  • Elevated intraocular pressure (IOP).
  • Family history of glaucoma.
  • Older patients. The risk of glaucoma increases with age.
  • Myopia. Myopic subjects are more susceptible to glaucoma.
  • Old ocular trauma.
  • History of corneal refractive surgery. Having undergone corneal refractive surgery means that the cornea is thinner and this can lead to falsely normal IOP measurements, so it is advisable to be evaluated by a glaucoma specialist.
  • Some medications taken chronically can increase IOP. An example of this is corticosteroids.

When should we perform an ophthalmologic control?

For all of the above, as a recommendation, an ophthalmologic control including IOP measurement and evaluation of the optic nerve should be performed:

  • From the age of 50 without a history of glaucoma.
  • From the age of 40 years (or earlier) in subjects with a history of glaucoma.
  • High myopes.
  • Patients with previous corneal refractive surgery.
  • History of ocular trauma.
  • Patients in chronic treatment with corticosteroids.