What is Glaucoma?

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma Philippines: The Ultimate Guide to a Leading Cause of Vision Loss

Overview: The Problem of Glaucoma in the Philippines

As one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness in the Philippines, glaucoma poses a significant burden on both the healthcare system and the nation’s well-being. According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma affects more than 5.8 million people in Southeast Asia. In the Philippines, glaucoma is responsible for almost 20% of cases of blindness, making it a critical public health issue.

Understanding Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that involve damage to the optic nerve, often resulting from increased intraocular pressure. There are two main types of glaucoma:

  • Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma (POAG) is the most common form of the disease and is characterized by slow, progressive vision loss, often without any noticeable symptoms in its early stages.
  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma (ACG) is less common but more severe, with sudden onset and rapid vision loss.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Age
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • High intraocular pressure
  • Ethnicity (Asian, African, and Latino descent are at higher risk)

Early Detection: The Key to Saving Sight

Because glaucoma often presents no symptoms until significant vision loss has occurred, regular eye check-ups with an ophthalmologist are crucial in detecting the disease early and starting appropriate treatment. In the Philippines, it is recommended that individuals start undergoing comprehensive eye examinations at 40 years old and continue these at least every two years thereafter.

Available Treatments in the Philippines

Glaucoma treatments in the Philippines include:

Eye Drops: The first line of treatment focuses on using eye drops to lower intraocular pressure, with multiple types and combinations available.

Oral Medications: For some patients, oral medications may be prescribed by an eye doctor to lower intraocular pressure further.

Laser Surgery: Select glaucoma patients may undergo laser treatments to either unclog the drainage canals (for POAG) or create a small hole in the iris (for ACG).

Conventional Surgery: While reserved for advanced cases, surgeries like trabeculectomy may become necessary to save vision by creating new drainage pathways.

Preventative Measures and Lifestyle Changes

While none can entirely prevent glaucoma, some lifestyle choices can help reduce its risk:

  • Regular eye checkups
  • Exercise regularly
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit caffeine intake
  • Do not smoke
  • Manage blood pressure by regular assessment and following a doctor’s plan

Glaucoma Support in the Philippines

Several organizations and support groups in the Philippines are dedicated to providing resources, assistance, and education about glaucoma:

Philippine Glaucoma Society: The leading glaucoma-focused organization in the country, PGS raises awareness, offers educational resources, and even organizes medical missions with free eye screenings and treatments for underprivileged patients.

Philippine Academy of Ophthalmology: The PAO is dedicated to advancing the practice of ophthalmology in the Philippines by providing educational connections and opportunities for glaucoma patients.

Eye Bank Foundation of the Philippines: This organization focuses not only on corneal transplants but also on public education and advocacy related to eye health, including glaucoma.

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