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1 in 8 Indians at risk of developing irreversible blindness: Expert

IANS Mar 16, 2023

Every eighth person in India is at risk of developing glaucoma that causes irreversible blindness, a health expert said here on March 15.

The optic nerve plays a critical role in transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain, and glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that can damage this nerve.

"Glaucoma is a significant cause of irreversible blindness in India, and everyone is susceptible to the disease," Reena Choudhry, a doctor at ICARE Eye Hospital said in a statement.

"Glaucoma usually causes silent vision loss, with some types being linked to mild eye pain, headaches, and rainbow-coloured circles around lights," Choudhry, COO and Medical Director, HoD, Glaucoma Department at ICARE said.

"Recent statistics by National Health Portal reveal that nearly 40 million individuals, or every eighth person, in India have glaucoma or are at risk of developing it.

Among individuals aged 40 and above, approximately 11.2 million suffer from glaucoma, with 1.1 million being visually impaired, including children.

"In Asia, glaucoma is projected to affect an additional 27.8 million individuals by 2040, with India and China bearing the brunt of the burden," she said.

While glaucoma can occur at any age, it mainly affects people beyond the age of 40 years. People who are high in short-sightedness, diabetics, have a history of eye trauma, have a family history of glaucoma, or have been taking corticosteroid medicines for a long time are at a higher risk of developing the condition.

"Early diagnosis of glaucoma can prevent its progression, and routine eye check-ups and mass screenings can facilitate its early detection and prevention. Late-stage diagnosis of the disease is treated with medication and surgery aimed at preventing further damage to vision and the visual field," Choudhry said.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends a comprehensive eye exam every five to 10 years if you are under 40 years old, every two to four years if you are 40 to 54 years old, every one to three years if you are 55 to 64 years old, and every one to two years if you are older than 65 years.

By following this guideline, one can increase the chances of early diagnosis and prevention of glaucoma, Choudhry said.

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