Posted on March 07, 2016

To recognize World Glaucoma Week, Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Ophthalmology Department is encouraging the public to take steps to protect their eye health, such as understanding the eye health history of their family and having regular eye examinations. More frequent eye screening is also recommended for those at risk of developing glaucoma.

World Glaucoma Week is observed globally between 6 to 12 March every year as a way of creating greater awareness about glaucoma, an eye disorder where there is progressive damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve is the part of the eye that carries visual information from the eye’s retina to the brain. Glaucoma has no known cause but is often associated with a buildup of pressure inside the eye. If left untreated, glaucoma can cause gradual but irreversible loss of vision, first affecting the peripheral or sideways vision, then moving progressively to the central vision. Symptoms include headaches, blurred vision and pain in the eye.

According to the World Health Organization, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide, after cataracts. People with glaucoma require careful lifelong treatment to slow the progression of the disease. “Regular comprehensive eye examination is important to help detect glaucoma in its early stages. There are only a few symptoms of glaucoma so people may not notice that they are losing their vision. We recommend that people with a high risk of developing glaucoma undergo screening every year or two after the age of 35,” said Dr. Zakia Mohamed Al Ansari, Glaucoma Specialist at HMC’s Ophthalmology Section.

People at high risk for glaucoma include those with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia; those with a family history of glaucoma; those who have previously sustained an eye injury; and people of African or Hispanic descent. Wearing protective eyewear when playing sports or using power tools can help prevent serious eye injury that can lead to glaucoma. Regular, moderate exercise may also help prevent glaucoma by reducing eye pressure.