Silent and IRREVERSIBLE, it is one of the leading causes of blindness

When a person turns 40, family and friends flood him/her with advises on going for health check-up, especially for blood sugar and pressure levels. But ophthalmologists say eye check-ups are equally important, particularly for detection of glaucoma.

One of the leading causes of blindness, glaucoma is a disease in which the optic nerve is damaged leading to progressive loss of vision. It is known to be silent and irreversible.

Unexplained headaches and frequent change of spectacles are some of the signs of glaucoma, said experts, during Glaucoma Week. “An elderly person might be able to see straight and walk but could bump into a table kept on the side. This is how glaucoma manifests itself. It causes loss of peripheral or side vision,” said Amar Agarwal, chairman and managing director of Dr. Agarwal’s Group of Hospitals.

It is here eye check-ups can help. “An eye check-up is not complete without reading of intra-ocular pressure. Increased pressure is one of the causes of glaucoma,” said K. Namitha Bhuvaneshwari, director and superintendent of Regional Institute of Ophthalmology and Government Ophthalmic Hospital.

Diabetics, those with hypertension, and people using steroids for a long time are at a higher risk for glaucoma, she said.

Dr. Agarwal said they are performing Stab Incision Glaucoma Surgery — wherein a small incision is made so the fluid in the eye comes out easily, thereby reducing the pressure.

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Ever heard of oil pulling? Chances are your grandmother practised it — swirling around sesame or sunflower oil in the mouth for 15 to 20 minutes, and then spitting it out.

An ancient Indian practice that has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine, oil pulling is seeing a surge of popularity in the West for being an ‘all-natural’ method of cleaning the mouth, avoiding bad breath and plaque build-up, and whitening the teeth.

But how effective is it? A study at a city dental college found that two weeks of oil pulling led to a significant reduction in Streptococcus mutans (bacteria in the mouth that contribute to tooth decay) and reduced plaque. Enthusiasts of oil pulling say its health benefits are manifold. In a paper, ‘Perspectives of oil pulling therapy in dental practice’ by Lakshmi T., Rajendran R. and Krishnan V., published last year, the authors said, other than promoting oral health, oil pulling could help in reducing asthma, allergies, chronic fatigue and a number of other conditions by ‘detoxifying or cleansing the body’.

The paper however said that while oil pulling is promising as a ‘preventive home therapy’, extensive studies with larger samples should be carried out to establish its efficacy.

Consultant orthodontist with Apollo Dental Centre, Dr. Ketan Parekh, while confirming oil pulling’s beneficial effects, said it should be combined with regular practices such as brushing and flossing.

“Though it is an Indian practice, there is not much awareness about it these days. I would recommend doing it every day, in addition to your usual oral care regimen,” he said.

So how does one go about oil pulling? Take a tablespoon of any edible vegetable oil in your mouth, pull between your teeth and swirl until the viscous oil turns thin and milky. Do not swallow. Perform on an empty stomach in the morning, and spit the oil out into a dustbin — otherwise, it may clog your sink.