Glaucoma: Fourth largest cause of vision loss is a “silent disease”

A woman checks the eye of another woman

On World Glaucoma Week (7-13 March 2021), let us talk about the “silent disease” that affects 8 million people around the world. It is the fourth largest cause of vision loss and second leading cause of blindness in adults aged 50 years and over, according to the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), of which CBM Global is a proud member.

Glaucoma is a disease that damages the eye’s optic nerve, which is important for good vision. This is often caused by an unusually high pressure in the eyes. Many forms of glaucoma have no symptoms or warning signs. Considered as a “silent disease”, its effects are gradual and changes in vision are mostly unnoticeable. Unfortunately, vision loss due to glaucoma is permanent, making it the most common cause of irreversible blindness.

Key data from the IAPB Vision Atlas states that out of 8 million people:

  • 6 million people are blind
  • 2 million experience moderate to severe vision impairment

Early detection and treatment are crucial to save and prevent vision loss. However, due to the lack of symptoms in its early stages, patients do not usually seek medical help. “Screening is very important when it comes to glaucoma. This means that when a patient goes to a doctor because of an eye problem, he/she is also checked for glaucoma,” says Dr. Danny Haddad, Inclusive Eye Health Director of CBM Global.

He also stresses the importance of access to eye care services:

“In countries where we work, many people do not have access to healthcare services. Some of them will go to an eye doctor when their sight is already affected. At that point you can only try to save the sight that is left. For advanced cases, vision can no longer be restored and this has a major impact on a person’s quality of life. CBM Global and our partners work together to ensure that our eye health work is inclusive and reaches the most vulnerable individuals and communities.”

David Bainbridge, CBM Global Executive Director says:

“There are 1.1 billion people around the world with vision loss and the numbers are expected to rise in the coming years. Many people lost their sight to causes that are preventable or treatable. Most of them are from low income settings, with no access to eye health services. Eye health is a development issue and we need a greater investment to ensure that eye health is inclusive and accessible for all.”

Main Image: A refractionist checks the eye pressure of a patient in a partner hospital in Cameroon.

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