Glaucoma causes optic nerve damage due to fluid buildup in the eye. If not treated, this eye pressure can permanently impair vision. Glaucoma is the world’s second leading cause of blindness. Eyedrops, laser treatments, and surgeries can all help to slow vision loss and save your sight.
What exactly is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a broad term for a group of eye disorders that affect the optic nerve. It is the most common type of optic nerve damage that results in vision loss. In most cases, fluid accumulates in the front of the eye. This extra fluid places pressure on the eye, gradually causing optic nerve damage. This is known as intraocular pressure (IOP), also known as eye pressure.
Some people with normal eye pressure develop glaucoma. Glaucoma, if left untreated or poorly controlled, can cause permanent and irreversible vision loss and blindness.
What exactly is the optic nerve?
The optic nerve is essential for vision. It sends signals to the brain from the retina (neural tissue in the back of your eye, similar to film in an old-fashioned camera). These signals are used by your brain to create images.
What is the prevalence of glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a common age-related eye problem that affects an estimated three million people in the United States. It is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, after cataracts.
Who is at risk for glaucoma?
People of all races and genders can develop glaucoma, but the risk increases with age. African Americans and Latinos are much more likely than other races to develop glaucoma, and they develop the disease at a younger age. Asian and Inuit populations are also predisposed to a type of glaucoma known as angle closure glaucoma.
Diabetics are twice as likely to develop glaucoma. Other risk factors are:
Glaucoma runs in the family.
Hyperopia or farsightedness (for closed-angle glaucoma).
Blood pressure is high (hypertension).
Corticosteroid use for a long time.
Myopia (nearsightedness) (for open-angle glaucoma).
Eye injury or surgery in the past.
What are the different types of glaucoma?
Glaucoma is classified into several types, including:
Open-angle glaucoma is the most common, affecting up to 90% of glaucoma patients in the United States. It happens when tiny deposits build up in the drainage canals of the eye, slowly clogging them. The canals appear to be open and operational. However, over time, the deposits cause fluid to accumulate and put pressure on the optic nerve. Because most people do not have symptoms, the disease can go unnoticed for years.
This uncommon type, also known as angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma, frequently manifests itself suddenly (acute). It happens when the angle between the iris (the coloured part of the eye that controls light exposure) and the cornea (the clear outer part of the eye) becomes too small. As a result, the drainage canals become clogged, preventing aqueous fluid from leaving the eye and resulting in an acute increase in eye pressure. Severe symptoms, such as eye pain and headaches, necessitate immediate medical attention.
Even when eye pressure is normal or not very high, one in every three people has optic nerve damage. Experts don’t know what causes normal-tension glaucoma, also known as normal-pressure or low-tension glaucoma. Asians and Asian Americans are more likely to have this type.
Some babies are born with drainage canals that did not properly develop in the womb. A baby’s glaucoma symptoms may be detected by your healthcare provider at birth. Alternatively, signs may emerge during childhood. This condition is also known as infantile, childhood, or paediatric glaucom
Is glaucoma a disease that affects both eyes?
Most people develop glaucoma in both eyes, though the disease may be worse in one at first. With open-angle glaucoma, one eye may be severely damaged while the other is only mildly affected. The disease gradually deteriorates both eyes.
People who have one eye affected by closed-angle glaucoma have a 40% to 80% chance of developing the same type of glaucoma in the other eye within five to ten years.
What exactly causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma can occur without a known cause, but it is influenced by a variety of factors. The intraocular eye pressure is the most important. Aqueous humour, a fluid produced by your eyes, nourishes them. This liquid travels to the front of the eye via the pupil. The fluid in a healthy eye exits through a drainage canal located between the iris and cornea.
Glaucoma causes microscopic deposits to clog the drainage canals. Because the fluid has nowhere to go, it accumulates in the eye. This extra fluid puts strain on the eye. This increased eye pressure can eventually damage the optic nerve, resulting in glaucoma.
What are the signs and symptoms of glaucoma?
Open-angle glaucoma symptoms usually appear gradually and subtly. As a result, they are easy to overlook. Many people with open-angle glaucoma have no noticeable symptoms at first, making routine eye exams critical for detecting this disease in its early stages. Because glaucoma damage is irreversible, it is critical to detect and treat it early to avoid blindness.
Closed-angle glaucoma causes more severe symptoms that appear suddenly.
You may encounter the following with any type:
Pain or pressure in the eyes.
Lights have rainbow-colored halo effects.
Low vision, blurred vision, narrowed vision (tunnel vision), or blind spots are all symptoms of low vision.
Vomiting and nausea
The eyes are red.
How is glaucoma detected?
It is possible to have glaucoma and be unaware of it. Regular eye exams are essential for detecting glaucoma and other eye problems. Optic health and vision loss can be assessed through eye exams.
Your eye doctor may perform one or more of the following painless tests to screen for glaucoma:
Dilated eye examination to dilate the pupils and examine the optic nerve at the back of the eyes.
Gonioscopy is used to examine the angle formed by the iris and cornea.
Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is used to detect changes in the optic nerve that could indicate glaucoma.
To measure eye pressure, an ocular pressure test (tonometry) is performed.
Pachymetry is used to determine the thickness of the cornea.
Slit-lamp examination uses a special microscope called a slit lamp to examine the inside of the eye.
A visual acuity test (eye charts) is used to detect vision loss.
Perimetry is a visual field test used to detect changes in peripheral vision (your ability to see things off to the side).
What is the management or treatment of glaucoma?
Untreated glaucoma can hasten the progression of permanent vision loss or blindness. Treatments can prevent further vision loss, but they cannot restore lost vision. If you have eye pain, severe headaches, or vision problems, you should see your eye doctor right away.
Treatments for glaucoma include:
To relieve eye pressure, prescription eyedrops reduce fluids and increase drainage. This condition can be treated with a variety of eyedrop medications. Because glaucoma is a chronic condition, you may need to use daily eyedrops for the rest of your life.
To help improve fluid drainage from your eye, your eye doctor may use a laser (a strong beam of light). While the laser can supplement the use of eye drops, it cannot completely replace them. The effects of laser treatments vary, but they can last for up to five years. Some laser treatments are also reversible.
Another option for lowering eye pressure is surgery. It is more invasive, but it achieves better eye pressure control more quickly than drops or laser. Although surgery can help slow vision loss, it cannot restore lost vision or cure glaucoma. There are many different types of glaucoma surgeries, and depending on the specific type and severity, your eye doctor may recommend one over another.
What are the glaucoma complications?
One in every ten people with glaucoma develops some degree of visual impairment. Blindness is more uncommon, affecting only 5% of glaucoma patients.
How can I avoid glaucoma?
The best way to protect eye health and prevent vision loss is to detect glaucoma early through routine eye exams. Glaucoma testing should be done at the following intervals:
For people at high risk, 1 to 2 years after the age of 35.
2 to 4 years before the age of 40.
Between the ages of 40 and 54, 1 to 3 years.
1 to 2 years between the ages of 55 and 64.
6 to 12 months after the age of 65.
What should I do if I have glaucoma?
Blindness is a rare complication of glaucoma when detected early. Glaucoma, on the other hand, is a chronic and progressive condition that frequently results in some degree of vision loss over time. The earlier you detect glaucoma and begin treatment, the better your chances of preserving your vision. Treatments can slow disease progression and prevent vision loss. Regular eye exams are essential if you are at high risk for glaucoma.
When should I consult a doctor?
If you have any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor:
Low or blurred vision.
Eye floaters, halos, or flashers
Eye pain or headaches that come on suddenly.
Loss of vision
What inquiries should I make of my doctor?
You could ask your healthcare provider:
What caused my glaucoma?
What kind of glaucoma am I suffering from?
What is the most effective treatment for my type of glaucoma?
Are there any risks or side effects to the treatment?
What changes in my lifestyle can I make to protect my vision?
Should I keep an eye out for signs of complications?
The doctors at Dr Kamdar Eye Hospital are experts in LASIK, cataract, cornea, retina, and glaucoma treatments.
The hospital is equipped with cutting-edge medical technology and the most experienced ophthalmologists. Our goal is to help you realise your best vision.
Please call or visit Dr. Kamdar Eye Hospital for more information or to schedule an appointment with a consultant.