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Is your family in the dark on glaucoma?

MANILA, Philippines - Do you have a relative who suffers from glaucoma? If so, beware. You may have the incurable disease, too.

Filipino families are unaware that glaucoma can also be passed on from one generation to the next. A major cause of bilateral permanent blindness in the Philippines, glaucoma damages optic nerves, which connect the eye to brain.

“Indeed, family history puts into light the hereditary and genetic aspect of the incurable glaucoma. Glaucoma attacks not only one patient but also brings in the possibility of spreading permanent blindness to their own loved ones,” said Dr. Jose Ma. Martinez, one of a few ophthalmologists in the country specializing in glaucoma care and the vice president of the Philippine Glaucoma Society (PGS).

Inside the eyeball, fluids maintain the constant eye pressure. When fluids don’t drain properly, intraocular eye pressure occurs, which in the long run could lead to the incurable glaucoma.

Other risk factors of glaucoma are eye pressure, previous eye injury, chronic steroid use, age over 45, diabetes mellitus, and race.

The chance of a relative of a known glaucoma patient developing the disease is difficult to determine. The pattern of inheritance tends to be unpredictable. Suffice it to say that your chances of developing the glaucoma are higher if you have a family member with established primary glaucoma.

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But relatives usually are unaware of the occurrence of glaucoma. This is when frequent trips to your eye doctor can truly show its necessity.

Glaucoma is mostly a disease of the elderly. However, a small proportion of glaucoma occurs at birth (congenital) or at an early age (juvenile). These patients carry a higher risk for blindness because of their longer life span.

“With knowing that permanent blindness runs in the family, the PGS with Allergan will vigorously do everything we can to get rid of glaucoma once and for all. Of course, everything starts with the patient’s initiative. Pay a visit to your eye doctor regularly,” Martinez said.

Although glaucoma does not display any conspicuous signs or symptoms, for families with case of glaucoma, watch out for these usual occurrences amongst patients: halos, blurry or cloud vision, vision decreases, severe eye pain, extreme sensitivity to light, excessive blinking and runny eye, crossed or out-turned eyes, one eye becoming larger than the other, nausea, and headache.

The PGS is the country’s leader in glaucoma care and detection. In partnership with globally recognize multi-specialty care firm Allergan, it recently launched on World Glaucoma Week a series of projects, activities and campaigns to increase awareness about glaucoma.

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