Eye doctor examines patient 370.
(photo credit: Judy Siegel-Itzkovich)
Of 20,000 blind Israelis, many cannot see because their glaucoma was not
diagnosed and treated in time.
World Glaucoma Week, which begins in
Israel and abroad on Sunday, is aimed at increasing awareness of the
degenerative ophthalmological disease which affects both young and
There are some 70,000 people here who have been diagnosed with
glaucoma, in which pressure of intraocular fluid (aqueous humor) – in addition
to other causes – destroys the optic nerve.
Every year, 6,000 more join
Dr. Benzion Silverstone, a Mexican-born ophthalmologist and head of
the glaucoma unit at Jerusalem’s Shaare Zedek Medical Center, told The Jerusalem
that the prevalence of the disease is growing almost exponentially, due to
the aging of the population. But although testing is recommended for people over
40 for those with a family history, or over 50 or 60, for those without, the
majority do not get checked.
Most patients receive eye drops to control
the pressure, while more serious cases require laser surgery to open up the
blockage in the anterior chamber angle of the eye.
The fluid is
constantly being produced in the colored iris of the eye and leaves it through
channels in the front. Anything that blocks or slows the fluid from leaving the
eye causes a build-up intra-ocular pressure, and eventually, this causes damage
to the optic nerve that leads to the brain.
There is no known way of
preventing ocular pressure from building up, but as soon as it is diagnosed, it
can be prevented to minimize the risks of the disease.
There are four
major types of the disease: open-angle (chronic) glaucoma, angleclosure (acute)
glaucoma, congenital glaucoma (that affects children) and secondary
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common, and tends to run in
families, thus risk is higher if there is a family history.
type causes severe pain due to sudden buildup of pressure and is an emergency.
Congenital is inherited, caused by abnormal development of the
Secondary glaucoma is caused by certain drugs, other eye diseases or
The painless test, called tonometry, performed by eye doctors at
the health funds, is an annual screening for excessive ocular
Regular follow-up is required in actual patients. Ironically,
some patients develop glaucoma even though the pressure is not high, and the
reason for this is not understood, Silverstone said.
Many new treatments,
among them surgery, have been added in the past decade, said Silverstone, who
has worked at SZMC for 35 years. These treatments reduce complications,
including bleeding and infections.An article on glaucoma will be
The Jerusalem Post on March 17.