Saving Filipinos from serious form of glaucoma
Among the types of glaucoma, the “Angle closure” may be regarded as most frightening since it involves the rapid increase in pressure inside the eye, otherwise known as intraocular pressure.
As the iris—the colored part of the eye—is pushed or pulled up against the drainage channels, the fluid that normally flows out of the eye is trapped and thus, cannot drain out, thereby increasing intraocular pressure.
Such ensuing rise in pressure is sudden and demands immediate medical attention as this condition could result in optic nerve damage and vision loss.
The bad news? Asians are probably the most exposed to this type of glaucoma.
“Asians have an anatomic predisposition to this type of glaucoma. Because Asians have a narrower fluid drainage system, many major studies on the disease show that Asian have higher incidences of Angle closure glaucoma,” said Dr. Biboy Martinez, vice president of the Philippine Glaucoma Society.
Martinez said that in one study glaucoma is set to become the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, disproportionately affecting women and Asians—by the year 2020 an estimated 21 million people will have Angle closure glaucoma, 87 percent of which will reside in Asia.
He also cited a 2001 study done in two eye centers in Manila by the team of Dr. Patricia Khu that showed that Angle closure glaucoma patients suffering from severe visual damage and higher pressures require more medical intervention compared to Filipino patients with Open angle glaucoma, the more common type among Caucasians and Europeans.
“Angle closure glaucoma should be addressed immediately because the patient may suffer from headaches, eye pain, nausea, seeing rainbows around lights and blurred vision (although these symptoms may not be present in all cases),” Martinez said.
To detect the condition, an eye doctor could view the drainage channels of the eye. This painless procedure called gonioscopy can help the eye doctor assess one’s risk for developing angle closure.
“It is still best to visit your eye doctor for early detection. Our ethnicity makes us more at risk for blindness from Angle closure glaucoma. Filipinos should be very wary of this,” Martinez said.
Philippine Glaucoma Society, whose vision is “That no Filipino will ever go blind from Glaucoma,” is the leading institution for glaucoma care and detection in the country.
Philippine Glaucoma Society teamed up with multispecialty healthcare firm Allergan to help patients in the Philippines understand their choices to make well-informed treatment.
“Remember, while glaucoma is one of the leading causes of adult blindness, it is also the leading cause of preventable blindness. Glaucoma often gives no warning sign until permanent damage has already occurred, which is why people who go blind from glaucoma are blind in at least one eye at the time of original detection, which points to the need for better early diagnosis,” Martinez said.