It is estimated that glaucoma affects over a million people in Spain
Early detection is vital for a disease that gives no warning and whose damage is irreversible if action is not taken in time
Dr Marta Pazos MD, PhD, the ophthalmologist at the Institut de la Màcula and glaucoma specialist, views it as essential to raise society’s awareness of the importance of preventive check-ups for early diagnosis of the disease before it affects the visual field. Glaucoma is a symptomless condition in which patients do not notice changes in peripheral vision until such a loss is significant and irreversible. In Spain, more than a million people may have glaucoma; it is calculated that half of them are unaware of this.
This 12 March, World Glaucoma Day, the international community is placing the focus on the importance of early check-ups, with a view both to the population as a whole and those with a family history of the disease. The latter’s risk of being affected is 4-10 times greater and they should undergo annual testing from the age of 40. In general, high eye pressure and being over 60 are other factors to be taken into account. Glaucoma is a chronic disease of the optic nerve that affects peripheral vision. Once it is detected, it can be treated using hypotensive eye drops, a laser or surgical procedures.
These days, specialists possess a great ally in glaucoma diagnosis: Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT). This non-invasive exploration technology enables the structure of the optic nerve to be studied by means of an infrared light emitter, applying the principles of interferometry. The Institut de la Màcula boasts state-of-the-art OCT that enables high-definition images to be obtained.
As Dr Pazos says, "OCT allows us to perform diagnosis before the structure of the optic nerve changes so we can act and halt the progression of the disease prior to it damaging vision”.
Using her extensive experience, Dr Pazos has established certain indicators for ophthalmologists to observe if they suspect that the glaucoma has progressed:
- When a localised nerve fibre loss of above five microns is detected in the same area.
- If the velocity of nerve fibre loss is greater than one micron each year.
Dr Pazos -who presented these conclusions at the recent 14th Congress of the Spanish Glaucoma Society- also highlights the importance of studying the information provided by the macula. This is especially useful when the glaucoma is advanced and technology is no longer detecting the variations suffered by the optic nerve.