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Eye experts sound alarm on glaucoma

MANILA, Philippines - Eye experts have sounded the alarm over glaucoma, saying that many Filipinos have this vision disorder but are not aware about it.

In a press briefing, Dr. Ma. Imelda Veloso, president of the Philippine Glaucoma Society (PGS), said that in the early part of the disease, glaucoma does not manifest any symptom until a patient “loses a significant amount of his vision.”

“That’s why we are celebrating the World Glaucoma Week from March 6 to 11. The objective is to increase public awareness about glaucoma... to prevent blindness that comes with it,” she said.

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that can gradually destroy the optic nerve, the cable that connects the eyes to the brain.

In the Philippines, it is the third leading cause of irreversible blindness.

According to PGS member Dr. Mark de Leon, glaucoma is a “silent, slow and progressive disease” that damages the peripheral vision. Because of this, patients can only see the center portion of objects.

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A small percentage of sufferers have episodes of eye pain, redness, blurred vision, headache, nausea or vomiting, and see rainbows around lights.

De Leon maintained that while glaucoma is untreatable, early diagnosis and proper management are important to slow down its progression.

Depending on the stage and type of glaucoma, it can be treated with eyedrops, laser or surgery. But lifelong monitoring of the condition is important since there is still no cure for the disease.

De Leon said those with glaucoma usually have “blind spots” in their visions that could go unnoticed because of the ability of the eyes to “fill in these gaps.”

The expert underscored the need for everyone to undergo eye screening to detect glaucoma in its early stage.

Worldwide, he said, some 80 million people are projected to develop glaucoma by 2020. Some 11 million of them will be blind in both eyes by then.

In the United States, 50 percent of those with glaucoma do not know they have the disorder, but in countries like the Philippines, 90 percent of patients are not aware.

At risk for glaucoma are those with elevated intraocular pressure or eye pressure, family history of glaucoma, previous eye injury, chronic steroid use, and diabetes.

PGS member Dr. Nilo Vincent Florcruz said there are still no statistics on glaucoma cases in the country but they observed that the number of glaucoma patients is increasing based on consultations at the Philippine General Hospital.

“Every day, we see 10 new glaucoma cases and 30 to 50 follow-up cases. Five years ago, there were only some 30 follow-up cases daily. It’s increasing,” Florcruz said.

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