March 12 commemorates the World Glaucoma Day, a date that seeks to raise awareness about the importance of ophthalmological controls to detect this disease early. In Argentina this condition affects more than a million peoplebut 40% of the inhabitants do not know what it is and the eye pressure was never taken.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that damages the optic nerve and gradually affects vision. If it is not treated in time, it can generate a irreversible blindness. In this sense, this condition is the second cause of vision loss in South America and the main cause of irreversible blindness in the world.
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In Argentina, more than a million people suffer from glaucoma. Of this total, more than 3% correspond to adults over 40 years of age and 7% to those over 75. One of the ways to detect this disease early is through ophthalmological studies. However, 40% of the inhabitants never took their eye pressure.
Glaucoma can affect anyone. Despite this, within the risk group are those over 40 years of age, direct relatives of patients with glaucoma, people who have suffered eye trauma, and patients who use or use corticosteroids.
“The dangerous thing is that the person does not realize it at the beginning of the disease. For this reason, it is often called ‘the silent thief of vision’. It is estimated that half of people with glaucoma do not know they are affected,” explained Dr. Anahí Lupinacci (MN 107784), coordinator of the Glaucoma Section of the Ophthalmology Service of the Austral University Hospital.
However, with timely diagnosis and proper treatment, most patients retain their vision. In this way, a patient can be prevented from becoming visually impaired,” she added.
The symptoms of glaucoma
The symptoms of glaucoma may appear slowly and progressively. In this line, in the early stages there are usually no symptoms, so half of the people who suffer from this disease are unaware of this fact.
As the disease progresses, the affected person may slowly lose vision. Side (peripheral) vision is usually affected first, especially the area closest to the nose. However, it happens so slowly that many people don’t initially notice that their vision is changing.
As the disease worsens, the person may begin to notice that they cannot see to the sides. Without treatment, glaucoma can eventually cause blindness.
What are the ways to combat glaucoma?
Among the different methods to combat glaucoma, the specialist highlighted annual visits to the ophthalmologist in order to detect the disease early. “The best strategy to combat the disease is to go to the ophthalmologist once a year, so that he is the one who, with various studies, reaches the diagnosis before it is too late,” he explained.
“To detect this preventable disease early, It is important to have an annual check-up with an ophthalmologistor more frequently if there is a risk factor”, stressed the doctor.
As for the study, he explained that The fundus of the eye is observed and the ocular pressure is taken., both controls that are part of the routine ophthalmological consultation. “The exam is quick and painless,” she clarified.
“In case of detecting possible signs of glaucoma, for example high eye pressure or some damage to the back of the eyeother studies help to arrive at the diagnosis, allow monitoring of the disease, and evaluate the need to start treatment,” he said.
Although vision loss caused by glaucoma cannot be recovered, its deterioration can be stopped by drops that reduce the pressure in the eye. In addition to this, there are certain specific lasers for glaucoma, such as selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT), which reduces the use of medication.
Also, if necessary, surgery can help maintain eye pressure so that the optic nerve is not further damaged and ends up causing irreversible loss of vision.
Exercise as a possible complementary treatment
In addition to drops and lasers, the doctor highlighted exercise as a way to influence the progression of glaucoma. In that sense, physical activity has short and long term effects on ocular pressure and ocular blood flow.
“Isometric or dynamic exercises, such as walking and swimming, produce a transient decrease in ocular pressure at the time and period after exercise, respectively. The eye pressure-lowering effect appears to be additive to the effect of glaucoma medications,” she said.
However, he clarified that these effects are “short-lived”therefore its relevance in the long-term treatment of chronic glaucoma is “uncertain”.
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Likewise, be aware of the possibility of carrying out some activities that increase eye pressure, which can favor the progression of glaucoma, “Certain exercises such as weight lifting and maximum effort exercises can paradoxically increase eye pressureand that increase may be even more significant when subjects hold their breath,” he explained.
Despite this, I clarify that patients are advised to perform “periodic aerobic exercise”: “Considering the beneficial effects of exercise on general health and well-being, glaucomatous patients are encouraged to engage in regular aerobic exercise.”
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