2023 Glaucoma Awareness Month: Latest Treatment & Research
There is a “looming epidemic of Glaucoma brought on by the world’s aging population”, says Thomas M. Brunner, President of the Glaucoma Research Foundation. We use this January 2023 to spread the word and get people talking about Glaucoma — by sharing your own story with others, passing on valuable information on this topic or encouraging regular screenings.
Glaucoma Awareness Month has never been more important than this post-pandemic 2023. COVID-19 has delayed surgical procedures. Further delays could mean an individual’s condition is in rapid decline before they receive the treatment they need. Prompt diagnosis and management, however, can prevent needless vision impairment.
Silent Thief of Sight
Often referred to as a “silent thief of sight”, Glaucoma is currently growing as the world’s second leading cause of blindness. An estimated 80 million people worldwide have Glaucoma, with numbers set to increase exponentially in coming years.
Glaucoma is ‘silent’ — leaving so many unaware that they have the disease. In fact, experts estimate that nearly half the people with Glaucoma don’t know they have it and haven’t been diagnosed or treated. They are progressively losing their sight as a result.
With your help, we can put a spotlight on this leading cause of preventable irreversible blindness worldwide. You can protect yourself and your loved ones from vision loss by spreading the message about Glaucoma Awareness Month this January 2023.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve — the delicate nerve that connects your eye to your brain.
Certain types of Glaucoma, like closed-angle and open-angle Glaucoma, can cause a block in the drainage canals in your eye. This prevents aqueous humour, a fluid which provides nutrition and maintains intraocular pressure, from leaving your eye.
An excessive build-up of aqueous fluid can then cause increased pressure in the eye and damage the optic nerve.
Types of Glaucoma:
- Closed-angle Glaucoma: Occurs when the angle between the iris and cornea is too narrow. The iris bulges and blocks the drainage of fluid in the eye, putting pressure on the optic nerve.
- Open-angle Glaucoma: The most common form of Glaucoma is caused by slow, progressive damage to the optic nerve. The iris and cornea are not the issue this time, as other parts of the drainage system don’t drain properly. This leads to a gradual increase in eye pressure.
- Normal-tension Glaucoma: A condition where the optic nerve is damaged despite normal eye pressure levels.
- Secondary Glaucoma: Can occur from underlying health conditions or eye injuries.
- Congenital Glaucoma: Present at birth or develops in infancy.
Why it can go undetected:
- It often has no noticeable symptoms in early stages.
- Visual changes happen gradually, making it difficult to notice changes.
- Glaucoma often affects one eye more severely than the other eye, so we may unknowingly compensate with our healthy eye.
- Although Glaucoma can affect anyone at any age, it is more common in older patients, where subtle visual changes are often disregarded as normal parts of the aging process.
- Fewer Glaucoma patients are able to access in-person checks, which is the only way to properly assess Glaucoma and save sight.
Why early detection is vital:
Luckily blindness is rare with modern treatments, we have a number of drops and laser surgeries and formal surgical procedures which can prevent blindness occurring in the vast majority of patients, particularly if they are caught early in the condition.
— From our 2022 interview with Consultant Ophthalmologist, Professor William Ayliffe. Click here to see the discussion on upcoming treatments, existing strategies and screening advice.
Latest News & Research
This Glaucoma Awareness Month we highlight the latest advancements in Glaucoma research to raise awareness of upcoming treatments and potential risk factors. If you or anyone you know falls into any of these risk categories, book an appointment with a specialist eyecare team as soon as possible to screen your eyes for Glaucoma early.
In a study of 1,076 participants, patients on medication for hypertension who had a higher dietary salt intake, had higher odds of developing open-angle Glaucoma. And diastolic blood pressure of less than 90mm Hg was found to be an additional risk factor for hypertensive patients.
In a study analysing 1,946 medical records, it was found that black participants of African descent had a significantly higher risk of blindness when diagnosed with Glaucoma. Compared with non-Hispanic white participants, they were 2x more likely (left side of graph) to develop early vision loss and 6x more likely (right side of graph) to develop more advanced visual field loss.
This highlights the need for earlier screening among black people.
Too much or too little shuteye (outside 7-9 hours per day), daytime sleepiness and snoring may be linked to an increased risk of developing Glaucoma, according to a 409,053-participant study conducted in the BMJ.
Participants with these risk factors were 10-13% more likely to develop Glaucoma. This link could, however, show how Glaucoma itself might influence sleep patterns, rather than the other way around.
Action Steps for Glaucoma Awareness
A comprehensive eye exam is key in determining if you have Glaucoma. Having yearly check-ups can allow for early detection, preventing significant damage and saving your eyesight.
We can spread awareness of Glaucoma by:
- Sharing Glaucoma Awareness blog posts or social media posts with your friends, family and loved ones to educate and protect them.
- Encouraging people above the age of 30 to undergo regular eye exams.
- Getting involved in any community discussions and events around the subject.
World Glaucoma Week (2022) glaucoma.org. Available at: https://glaucoma.org/world-glaucoma-week/
Open Angle Glaucoma (2022) in the National Library of Medicine: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441887/
Association Between Dietary Salt Intake and Open Angle Glaucoma in the Thessaloniki Eye Study DOI: 10.1097/IJG.0000000000002044
Cohort Study of Race/Ethnicity and Incident Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma Characterized by Autonomously Determined Visual Field Loss Patterns (2022). https://doi.org/10.1167/tvst.11.7.21
Association of sleep behaviour and pattern with the risk of glaucoma: a prospective cohort study in the UK Biobank, BMJ Open (2022). DOI: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-063676