What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease involving damage to the optic nerve, which sends visual signals to the brain. Pressure buildup in the eye is proven to be one of the major risk factors associated with glaucoma. This can result in a gradual loss of field of vision and if not managed, can lead to blindness. With early detection and timely treatment, your vision can be preserved.
Why is IOP so important?
Your eye is filled with fluids that help maintain a certain pressure in the eye. This is called intraocular pressure (IOP). Normal IOP is about 10 to 20 mm Hg. Tonometry is a procedure in which your doctor uses a device to measure IOP. However, some people can develop glaucoma with normal eye pressure as well.
Controlling IOP is the major goal of glaucoma therapy.
What are the types of glaucomas?
There are several types of glaucoma. Different types may require different forms of treatment.
Open – angle glaucoma
Open-angle glaucoma is one of the common types of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma produces no symptoms in the early stages, which is why it is called the “sneak thief of sight.” It may go undiagnosed and untreated until loss of vision is noticed in advanced stage.
Closed-angle glaucoma is the second most common type and can sometimes lead to symptoms such as severe pain, headache, and nausea, as well as blurred vision. Majority of patients having this type of glaucoma also often experience no symptoms in the early stages making it important that routine comprehensive eye examinations should be done for all at regular intervals to detect such changes in early stages.
Low or normal tension glaucoma
Low or normal tension glaucoma occurs in people with normal eye pressure. It is important to share your medical history with your doctor to identify other risk factors, such as low blood pressure, that contribute to this type of glaucoma.
Secondary glaucoma are sometimes associated with eye injuries, advanced cataracts, certain eye tumors, eye inflammation, diabetes, some drugs and even eye surgery. A variety of treatments apply to this category .
Congenital glaucoma is a birth defect that slows the normal drainage of fluid in the eye. Children born with it may have cloudy eyes, sensitivity to light, and excessive tearing. Surgery is safe and effective, and when done promptly, good vision can be maintained.
Who can develop glaucoma?
Glaucoma strikes people of every race, gender and nationality. The following criteria increase the risk.
- Age over 40
- Family history of glaucoma
- Abnormally high IOP
- Regular, long-term use of steroids/cortisone
- Previous eye injury
It is important that anyone with any of these risk factors get regular eye checkups. Early detection and treatment of glaucoma can slow the progression of the disease.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Glaucoma in early stages generally does not show noticeable symptoms. It is possible for a person suffering from chronic glaucoma to be completely unaware of the disease. Some common symptoms of chronic glaucoma could be:
- Inability to adjust the eyes to darkened rooms such as theaters.
- Frequent changes in near (reading) eyeglass prescription .
- Gradual loss of peripheral vision.
- Blurred vision.
- Poor night vision.
In the case of Acute Glaucoma resulting from rapid increase in the intraocular pressure, there could be severe symptoms like:
- Seeing rainbow colored halos around lights.
- Sever eye pain, facial pain.
- Red eye.
- Cloudy vision with halos around light.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Feeling of a blind area in the eye.
Tests for Glaucoma: How are they done?
- Perimetry: Must for making diagnosis of all glaucoma patients. This test is essential not only to assess the extent of the existing damage, but also to document and measure the progression of the disease and the response to treatment. This exercise takes time and may have to be repeated at timely intervals.
- Tonometry: Recording of pressure is done using Goldmann Applanation Tonometer.
- Gonioscopy: A lens is applied on the eye and angle is examined to see if it is open or closed type of glaucoma.
- Other sophisticated tests: OCT (Ocular Coherence Tomography,), CCT (Pachymety), etc. may be considered in some cases.
Is Glaucoma curable?
Glaucoma cannot be cured. But it can be controlled and further damage to the optic nerve can be slowed down or halted.
How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma can be treated effectively when caught early. Eye drops, pills, laser procedures, eye surgeries, or a combination of these approaches may be used to treat glaucoma. The primary effect of above mentioned treatment options is lowering IOP.
Your doctor will probably begin treatment with medication in the form of eye drops. Laser procedure is often adviced in Angle closure glaucoma.
If treatment with one or more medications is unsuccessful, then your eye doctor may recommend surgery.
How long do I need to use my medication?
Glaucoma is a chronic disease that requires patients to use medication for the rest of their lives.
How to prevent Glaucoma?
In most cases, there is no prevention for the development of glaucoma. If detected early, further vision loss and blindness may be prevented with treatment. It is always suggested that excessive smoking should be avoided. Regular eye check up especially for the people falling under the high – risk groups is a must.
Must remember facts about Glaucoma.
- In its early stages, glaucoma has no symptoms and damage caused by glaucoma is irreversible.
- It is important that you continue to take your drops every day to avoid losing your sight permanently.
- Keep your regular visits to the clinic without fail.
- Never change or stop talking your medications without consulting your doctor.
- Whenever you see any other health care professional, make sure he knows you have glaucoma.
- If you have problems with your medicine, talk to your doctor as soon as possible.
- If you have a history of glaucoma in the family, please get your relatives examined for the same, as glaucoma is hereditary.