Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and the number one cause of irreversible blindness. It is a chronic eye disease in which increased pressure in the eye can lead to damage of the optic nerve resulting in gradual loss of vision – it accounts for more cases of irreversible blindness than any other eye disease.
However, the condition is treatable, and blindness can be prevented through early diagnosis. Although children and young adults can be affected by glaucoma, high-risk groups include people over 40, diabetics and those with a family history of glaucoma.
“Glaucoma is one of the UAE’s leading causes of blindness,” says Dr. Mohammed Sohaib Mustafa, who is a consultant ophthalmic surgeon and specialist in glaucoma and cataract surgery at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai.
Diabetes and risk of glaucoma
Among many factors, age, genetics, and uncontrolled diabetes, which is quite common in the UAE, are leading risk factors for glaucoma. Old age is not only a risk factor for the diagnosis of glaucoma but also its progression. Patients over 60 years old are six times more likely to develop glaucoma. Additionally, genetics is a considerable risk factor for glaucoma. Some patients are predisposed to certain kinds of glaucoma, which can increase their risk of developing the disease by about 45 per cent. Among these factors, diabetes is the most manageable factor.
“Uncontrolled diabetes puts added pressure on your eye, which can damage the retina and the optic nerve, the main eye nerve for sight, doubling your odds of developing glaucoma,” Dr. Sohaib explains.
The main type of glaucoma associated with diabetes is Neovascular glaucoma, a severe form of acute glaucoma attack, which arises when poor circulation related to diabetes causes abnormal blood vessels to grow inside the eye.
“Our team in Dubai and abroad are working diligently on breakthrough technology and research to help better understand the development of glaucoma - its symptoms and the risks associated with it. However, our key recommendation for patients is to receive regular eye checks, as early detection can prevent vision loss and reduce the progression of the disease,” he adds.