Glaucoma, the silent thief who can steal sight

Remember the comics with the Dachshunds Band that, over time, imperceptibly empties Uncle Scrooge’s deposit and how the old stingy one day finds himself diving into a few coins? We all laughed at that scene. Here, we must probably remember that something similar can also happen to our eye. Even for sight, in fact, there is a sort of “silent thief” who, without giving signs, slowly appropriates very small portions of the visual capacity, to the point of creating potentially serious damage and, unfortunately, not reversible. It is called glaucoma. It is a degenerative disease that generally involves both eyes, causing permanent damage to the optic nerve, which over time can lead to low vision and blindness. The most important risk factor is elevated eye pressure, but in one third of cases it is observed in patients with normal eye pressure.

Those who suffer from it can experience a progressive reduction of the visual field up to “tubular” vision which gives the impression of looking through a cone, because you can only see a small part of what is in front of you. There is no definitive cure, but the pathology can only be slowed down. Early diagnosis is a fundamental tool but unfortunately it happens that people do not realize, even for a long time, that they are affected and come to the ophthalmologist when the situation is now compromised. According to the World Health Organization, 50 percent of patients do not know they have it because the diagnosis is late. And then, let’s remember to check the eyes, considering that the over 60 are the most affected but glaucoma can also arise among the youngest. This is the message that comes from the experts of the Italian study association for glaucoma (Aisg). “The healthy individual must be examined by the ophthalmologist at least bi-annually starting from the age of 40, remembering that those who have a positive family history for glaucoma will have to start being examined at a young age”, explains Stefano Miglior, director of the Oculistic Clinic of the Polyclinic of Monza- Milano Bicocca University, as well as president of Aisg.

“Short-sighted people are advised to be examined as early as 20, but it is true that those who are short-sighted will tend to be seen more frequently and earlier”. The important thing, in any case, is to realize that in the most appropriate management of glaucoma it is necessary to obtain a reduction in ocular pressure that is clinically significant and whose absolute value depends on various factors (stage of the disease, basal values ​​of ocular pressure, concomitant risk factors, life expectancy and speed of any worsening of functional visual field damage over time). “Warning: realizing that when glaucoma worsens it means that the ocular pressure is not optimal and must be further lowered, which often involves the need for surgery,” says Miglior.

“And it must be remembered that today it is possible to try to obtain a greater resistance of the nervous structures that are damaged during the course of the disease with specific neuroprotective molecules, whose use, in support of the traditional hypotonic therapeutic strategy, could help to slow down the possible progression of the functional damage “. In short: what matters, for sight, is not to waste time and to make regular checks for an early diagnosis.

Federico Mereta

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