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Tech-savvy care

And now, a special scanning technique helps diagnose glaucoma. B. Sreedhar Rao, ophthalmic surgeon and glaucoma specialist, throws light on it

IT IS 9. 30 a.m. There is chaos on Poonamallee High Road. It's the usual peak hour traffic jam. You heave a sigh of relief to escape from the cacophony as you walk into the peaceful consulting room of B. Sreedhar Rao, ophthalmic surgeon and glaucoma specialist, at the Kumaran Hospital, Kilpauk. Even as patients begin to trickle in, Dr. Rao enters. The day has begun.

He motions the others in the corridor to wait as he snatches time from his schedule to talk about his pet subject - eye care. The focus is on glaucoma, the study and treatment of which have taken him places over a career spanning two decades and more.

"Headaches, blurred vision, haloes around lights... These are usually symptoms of glaucoma and require the immediate attention of an ophthalmologist," he says, rueing the lack of awareness of the disease in India.

"Extensive publicity is given to cataract and the mass screening camps that are held overshadow the existence of other eye diseases, especially glaucoma. How many are aware that next to cataract, glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the world? Or that around 11.2 million persons affected by the disease are Indians," asks Dr. Rao.

He continues, "It's worrisome that in many patients the symptoms do not surface and the disease, therefore, remains undetected till it reaches an advanced stage. The only way to diagnose and minimise loss of vision is through periodic check-ups."

Technological advances in medicine take place all the time and the latest diagnostic aid that ophthalmologists can rely on in detecting glaucoma is the Heidelberg Retinal Tomogram. This laser scanning system, which is rather like a CT scan, acquires and analyses three-dimensional images of the optic nerve. From these a topographic image of the optic nerve is quantitatively computed and colour coded. It helps assess subtle changes caused by the progression of glaucoma. Since variation in results is minimal and reproducibility good, the HRT is an ideal companion for ophthalmologists. What's more, the measurements take barely a few minutes for each eye and computation and analysis only around 10 minutes.

The terminology might seem difficult to comprehend, but never mind! It's comforting to know that you can depend on modern science for a precise diagnosis.

Dr. Rao says that though the HRT is used in other parts of the world, the technology is available only in three centres in India - Mumbai, Delhi and Chennai. And, having specialised in glaucoma care it was only natural for him to instal the equipment at Su-Darshan, his Ashok Nagar clinic, making him the first among others in the field in the city to do so.

Research and work at prestigious institutions, paper presentations, publications and awards... Dr. Rao's track record is impressive. But more so is his commitment towards taking the "Eye Care" message to the people.

MAYA MENON

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