Glaucoma, the silent thief of sight

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By Mark DaCosta- In our beloved nation of Guyana, the prevalence of glaucoma casts a shadow over countless lives, leaving a trail of blindness in its wake, particularly among our revered elderly population. It is a tragic reality that almost every Guyanese family can recount a tale of someone who has fallen victim to this silent thief of sight. One can’t help but wonder: how did it happen? Did they not sense something amiss before darkness descended upon them?

Glaucoma, with its stealthy and insidious nature, lurks unnoticed until irreversible damage is done. This relentless condition strikes silently, advancing stealthily without a hint of warning. But what exactly is glaucoma? Glaucoma manifests as the result of irreparable damage to the delicate optic nerve nestled at the back of the eye, often attributable to elevated intraocular pressure.

Intraocular pressure, a term unfamiliar to many, denotes the pressure exerted by the fluid circulating within the eye. When this pressure escalates beyond the normal threshold, it spells trouble for the optic nerve. In some instances, this pressure can surge abruptly, causing excruciating pain, prompting those affected to urgently seek medical intervention. This acute manifestation of glaucoma, though severe, is relatively rare compared to the more prevalent chronic variant.

The symptoms of glaucoma are often subtle, insidiously creeping into one’s life until it’s too late to reverse the damage. Symptoms may include a gradual loss of peripheral (side) vision, blurred vision, difficulty adapting to low light conditions, and ultimately, complete vision loss if left unchecked. By the way, one of the common symptoms that is often overlooked is seeing colours, like a rainbow, around lights, including streetlights and lights on vehicles. People at heightened risk of succumbing to glaucoma include individuals with a familial history of the disease, our revered seniors aged 60 and above, individuals of African or Hispanic descent, and those grappling with conditions such as diabetes or hypertension.


Diagnosing glaucoma necessitates a comprehensive eye examination by a medical professional, encompassing meticulous measurements of intraocular pressure, thorough scrutiny of the optic nerve, and meticulous evaluation of visual fields. Given its clandestine nature, regular screening becomes imperative, particularly for those predisposed to its clutches.

Early detection emerges as the cornerstone in managing glaucoma and thwarting the relentless march of vision loss. Though a cure remains elusive, treatment endeavors to alleviate intraocular pressure and impede the progression of the disease. This may entail a multifaceted approach encompassing the judicious use of eye drops, oral medications, laser therapy, or surgical interventions, tailored to suit the severity and type of glaucoma.

With timely intervention and diligent management, the prognosis for individuals grappling with glaucoma can be relatively optimistic. Fortunately, access to treatment for glaucoma is readily available at healthcare institutions such as the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC) and healthcare centers dotting our nation’s landscape. Even more heartening is the fact that treatment for glaucoma is extended free of charge in our country, ensuring equitable access to care for this particular condition.

It is paramount for those at risk of glaucoma’s grasp to remain vigilant, steadfastly prioritising regular eye examinations. By fostering a culture of proactive vigilance and promptly seeking medical redress, blindness from glaucoma can be effectively averted. Glaucoma may be a silent adversary, stealthily robbing us of our sight, but armed with awareness, early detection, and diligent management, we can fortify our defenses against its relentless onslaught.

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