News / Health

Glaucoma, A Stealth Disease And Major Cause of Blindness

Glaucoma, A Stealth Disease And Major Cause of Blindness

x
Glaucoma, A Stealth Disease And Major Cause of Blindnessi
|| 0:00:00
X
September 27, 2012 1:02 AM
Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness around the world, but especially in developing countries. The World Health Organization says glaucoma is a greater public health challenge than cataracts, because the blindness caused by glaucoma is permanent. VOA's Carol Pearson has more on what glaucoma is and who's at risk.

Glaucoma, A Stealth Disease And Major Cause of Blindness

TEXT SIZE - +
Carol Pearson
Glaucoma is a major cause of blindness around the world, but especially in developing countries.  The World Health Organization says glaucoma is a greater public health challenge than cataracts, because the blindness caused by glaucoma is permanent.

If you think you are not at risk for glaucoma, think again.  Glaucoma is a disease that steals the sight of people around the world -- and they typically don't even know they have the disease until it has permanently destroyed at least 40 percent of their vision.  

Dr. Alan Robin specializes in treating glaucoma.

"It's the leading cause of blindness in the United States.  In Hispanics and in African-Americans, it’s the second leading cause of blindness," said Robin.

In China and in India, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness.

"The glaucoma you see in sub-Saharan Africa is a much more aggressive, much more blinding disease than the glaucoma we see in Americans or even African-Americans in the United States," he said.

Dr. Eric Fleischer sees these racial differences at Medstar Washington Hospital Center.  

"Pretty much anybody who has ancestry in Africa has an increased chance for developing glaucoma," said Fleischer.

Age is another risk factor for glaucoma, although people of all ages can get it.  As Dr. Robin explains, it's a group of diseases that commonly produce pressure in the eye.

"An eye is sort of like a watch. And behind the face of the watch that has the numbers, fluid is made.  It goes through your pupil and into the front of the watch between the numbers or the face and the crystal.  There's an area around the edge of the watch that drains the fluid," he said.

When that drain is clogged, the fluid can't leave the eye as fast as it is produced. The rising pressure within the eye damages and eventually kills the optic nerve. The result is blindness.

The process is usually so painless and subtle, people don't notice it.     

"Typically they'll notice if they bump into door frames, because they've lost their peripheral vision, or they'll start having car accidents because they don't see a car to one side or the other," said Fleischer.

Fortunately, glaucoma can be easily diagnosed.  The simplest test measures peripheral vision. That's because with glaucoma the side vision is the first to go.  

The good news is that, if caught early, glaucoma can be managed.  

"It's not preventable, but it's treatable," said Robin.

Glaucoma is not reversible, but, as researchers learn more about it, they grow more hopeful that glaucoma can one day be cured or even prevented.

We'll learn about treatment options in Carol Pearson's next report on glaucoma.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid