Asians at risk of blindness: Glaucoma and race


Asian countries, which are a ménage of diverse cultures, races and rich history, have a common dreadful trait – the existence of the incurable glaucoma.

“Among races, Asians are probably the most exposed to glaucoma. Because Asians have a narrower fluid drainage system, many major studies on the disease shows higher incidences of angle closure glaucoma – the deadlier type of glaucoma – on Asians,” said Dr. Biboy Martinez, vice-president of the Philippine Glaucoma Society, the recognized association of glaucoma specialists in the country.



Asians have an anatomic predisposition to Angle closure glaucoma. Fluid produced inside the eye passes thru a drainage channel. In Asians the entrance to this drainage channel tends to be narrower and can close altogether causing a sharp increase in pressure. High eye pressure damages the optic nerve initiating glaucoma damage which can lead to blindness.



In a study by Quigley et al, by the year 2020 an estimated 21 million people will have Angle Closure Glaucoma, 87% of which will reside in Asia. A local study by Dr. Patricia Khu et al in 2001 conducted in 2 eye centers in Manila showed that Angle closure Glaucoma patients present with more severe visual damage, higher pressures and requires more interventional measures compared to filipinos with open angle glaucoma.



The most common types of glaucoma are Primary open-angle glaucoma and Primary angle closure glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma is the more common type in Caucasians and Europeans. There is a high prevalence of both glaucoma types in Asians so by ethnicity we carry a greater burden of glaucoma in this part of the world.



Angle Closure Glaucoma, which is considered deadlier, progresses quickly and painfully. It is a major cause of world blindness today and is expected to become an even more serious problem as the world population and life span increases.



Symptoms of Angle Closure Glaucoma can include headaches, eye pain, nausea, rainbows around lights and blurred vision. These symptoms may not be present in all cases. An eye doctor can view the drainage channels of the eye thru a contact lens and a microscope. This procedure called gonioscopy can help the eye doctor assess your risk for developing angle closure. If the angle is judged to be capable of closure a laser procedure (iridotomy) can modify the angle configuration and effectively decrease the risk of closure.


“It is still best to visit your eye doctor for early detection. Our ethnicity makes us more at risk for blindness from angle closure glaucoma. Filipinos should be very wary of this,” added Dr. Biboy Martinez.


Philippine Glaucoma Society is the leading institution for glaucoma care and detection in the country. It vision can be summarized in nine words: That no Filipino will ever go blind from Glaucoma.



Philippine Glaucoma Society along with globally recognized multi-specialty care company Allergan brings scientific excellence and rigor in delivering leading products that addresses glaucoma. Allergan goes beyond providing education and information. With the highest level of integrity, Allergan helps patients understand the choices available to them and make well-informed treatment decisions with their doctors.



As the world’s melting pot of the richest cultures, Asia’s fight against incurable blindness will bring to light a better and brighter tomorrow for its people.

by Eccentric Yet Happy