* Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of eye
* Symptoms or signs are often absent in the earliest stages of glaucoma
* One must undergo eye check-up if he has eye pain, clouded vision, rapid loss of eyesight, red eyes
* High-risk groups: People suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure and smokers
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, March 16: Assam has witnessed an alarming rise in patients suffering from glaucoma, a disease that causes permanent blindness.
Ophthalmologists across the State are extremely worried that glaucoma, which does not have prominent visible early signs and symptoms, has become the second leading cause of blindness after cataract.
According to a conservative estimate, out of every 100 patients visiting the Regiol Institute of Ophthalmology (RIO) in Guwahati and other government hospitals in the State, nearly 12 suffer from glaucoma. Of the visually impaired in Assam, 10 per cent are victims of glaucoma compared to 5 per cent five years ago.
Dr Subhra Kinkor Goswami, a seasoned ophthalmologist and an ace anterior segment surgeon, told The Sentinel that even though many suffered from glaucoma in the State, more than half did not know they had the eye disorder. He said what is extremely worrying is that signs and symptoms of the disease are not very visible. Mostly, impaired vision is the first sign that a patient is suffering from glaucoma.
Goswami said cataract is still the leading cause of blindness in Assam but it is curable since signs and symptoms are very visible. But unlike cataract, glaucoma does not have clear signs and symptoms, he said.
An ophthalmologist at RIO said contrary to belief, glaucoma is no longer limited to the elderly. This eye condition can appear in children and young adults as well. He said the rate of glaucoma in the age group 20-30 is a matter of concern and the flow of such patients to RIO is increasing.
“Fast lifestyle is becoming a major risk factor for glaucoma and most of us tend to ignore this. Because of changing lifestyle, the number of people with high blood pressure, smoking habit and diabetes is increasing. These people are prone to developing glaucoma in the latter period of their lives. But people often do not find any correlation between blood pressure, smoking and diabetes with glaucoma,” the doctor said.
Goswami said there is an urgent need to carry out massive campaign to create awareness about glaucoma. “We are organizing various camps and campaigns to create awareness about the disease. The government has to intensify its campaign too,” he said.