ORBIS International, a non-profit humanitarian organization, teaches surgical techniques for glaucoma in developing countries. Glaucoma is a class of eye diseases that causes damage to the optic nerve. This at first causes the loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision), and if left untreated eventually results in blindness. In most cases glaucoma produces a painless, progressive loss of vision.
Glaucoma is usually associated with increased pressure within the eye. Your eye contains a clear, watery fluid (aqueous) that maintains the eye's shape and helps nourish the lens and cornea. This fluid is continuously produced and drained from the eye. With glaucoma, the balance between production and drainage is disrupted, causing increased pressure inside the eye and pinching off the blood vessels nourishing the optic nerve.
The two most common types of glaucoma are primary open angle glaucoma and primary angle closure glaucoma (closed angle glaucoma). Symptoms of primary open angle glaucoma develop gradually and include painless loss of side vision, progressing, if untreated, to a complete loss of vision.
Closed angle glaucoma is a sudden and dramatic increase in eye pressure causing severe eye pain, headache, nausea and blurred vision.
How common is glaucoma?
According to the World Health Organization, Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and accounts for 8 percent of all cases of total blindness. Open angle glaucoma is more prevalent than closed angle glaucoma. Because glaucoma often occurs as a complication of an underlying medical condition, early diagnosis and proper management of that condition can make blindness prevention easier.
Risk factors in developing countries
Risk factors for primary open angle glaucoma include age, African origin or a history of certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease. A family history of glaucoma also increases risk of the disease. Closed angle glaucoma occurs about equally in whites and those of African origin, but is somewhat more common in Asians.
Prevention of glaucoma
Screening is the primary means of detecting glaucoma. For people in developing countries, who have little access to eye exams, glaucoma usually isn't detected until vision loss has taken place. Treatment cannot restore sight but can prevent the disease from progressing.
Treatment of glaucoma
Because vision loss is permanent, symptoms of glaucoma should be recognized and treated as quickly as possible to prevent the deterioration of eyesight. Blindness prevention is possible for people with glaucoma.
- Eye drops to reduce the amount of aqueous fluid produced by the eye or to increase the relative rate of fluid drainage from the eye
- Laser treatment to clear blockages preventing the fluid from draining
- Surgery to create new channels in the eye to allow drainage of aqueous fluid
- Implanted devices to promote fluid drainage from the eye
What ORBIS is doing about glaucoma in developing countries
ORBIS is working with its local partners to ensure free eye screenings, even in the remotest of areas. This allows for the early symptoms of glaucoma to be recognized, treated and prevented from advancing. ORBIS is also promoting media campaigns to build public awareness of the disease and its devastating impact. Such programs can reduce blindness in Africa,
Asia and other parts of the world.