By Dr. Shmaryahu Kalish
Most people are not familiar with an eye disease, glaucoma, which in its latest stages can cause blindness. But everyone is aware of the importance of sight and maintaining good vision—and that the eye is the gateway to this good vision. In fact, a larger part of the brain is dedicated to vision than to hearing, taste, touch and smell combined. Despite this, up to 50% of people in the developed world who have this disease called glaucoma are totally unaware of it. Because of this the World Health Organization made glaucoma a focus of its five-year vision 2020 campaign.
What is Glaucoma?
The eye, like any closed system, has a normal internal pressure. When that pressure becomes higher than normal, it can cause damage to the “eye nerve”—the optic nerve. This nerve is what normally transmits what we see to the brain where actual vision takes place. This damage to vision is glaucoma. The problem—the real problem—is that this eye pressure and its increase is unnoticeable; it is not pressure that one feels in their eyes or head. It presents absolutely no symptoms initially and if not treated can cause irreversible visual loss before being detected. It is among the leading causes of blindness in the world. Fortunately most people will not experience this disease but for those who do, and go untreated, it can be devastating.
How can we detect and treat this silent thief of sight? The single most effective way is to have a comprehensive eye examination yearly in an ophthalmologist’s office, particularly from the age of 35 and older. In Israel, only medical doctors are allowed to put drops in a patient’s eyes (or someone under an ophthalmologist’s supervision). After the drops are administered, the eye pressure is checked in a simple painless procedure which usually takes less than 10 minutes. If glaucoma in its early stages is detected, treatment with regular eye drops is usually effective in lowering eye pressure and preventing any damage to the eye or vision. But even in later stages, treatment is often effective in preventing further damage.
Unfortunately very often appointments for full exams can take some time to schedule and the waiting time in the office can be longer than usual. Therefore, in our office we have tried to circumvent that problem by offering a screening test to see if further or immediate follow up is warranted. This test will be limited to checking your eye pressure and will take less than 15 minutes from entering the office to leaving. Based on this brief screening, you will know if you are presently at risk for glaucoma or not.
This, of course, does not replace a comprehensive eye exam, which is recommended for general health of the eye and for detecting effects on the eye of general medical conditions – but it is an effective first step.
Dr. Kalish did his ophthalmology training at the Mt. Sinai Medical Center in NYC and taught at the medical center for several years afterward. He has been a practicing ophthalmologist for 30 years and maintains offices in Beit Shemesh and Beitar.
Dr. Kalish’s Beit Shemesh Clinic is located at the Lev Harama Shopping Center in RBS B. They can be reached at 02-679-9008 by WhatsApp at 054-943-3989 or at [email protected].