According to a study, there are around 57.5 million people who have glaucoma, and this number is estimated to go up to 111.8 million by 2040. It is considered a significant public health concern as after cataract, it is the second biggest cause of blindness, and the blindness caused by glaucoma is generally permanent.
Glaucoma is an eye disease that affects the optic nerve, which is essential for vision. It is one of the major causes of blindness in adults over the age of 60, and it is caused by excessively high pressure in the eye. Most types of glaucoma have no warning signs and can occur at any age, but it is more frequent in elderly people. As the progression is slow, one may not notice any defect in vision until the condition has progressed significantly.
Loss of vision due to glaucoma is irreversible, and therefore, it is critical that people get regular eye exams that include measuring the pressure in the eye after a certain age so that the diagnosis can be done at an early stage.
Glaucoma is referred to a set of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve. In this condition, fluid is accumulated in the front of the eye in the majority of instances. This additional fluid exerts pressure on the eye, resulting in optic nerve damage. The pressure within the eye is called intraocular pressure, and this is said to be increased in glaucoma. Glaucoma, if left untreated or improperly managed, can cause permanent and irreversible visual loss and blindness.
Types Of Glaucoma
- Open-angle glaucoma: The most prevalent type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma. The trabecular meshwork is partially occluded and the drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris always remains open. The pressure in the eye gradually rises, which damages the optic nerve.
- Glaucoma with angle closure: Angle-closure glaucoma, also known as closed-angle glaucoma, is a condition in which the iris bulges forward, narrowing or blocking the drainage angle created by the cornea and iris.
- Glaucoma with normal intraocular pressure: In this, the optic nerve is injured, even if the eye pressure is within normal limits.
Glaucoma signs and symptoms differ depending on the kind and stage of the disease
- Open angle glaucoma:
- Patchy blind spots in the peripheral (side) or central vision, which often affects both eyes.
- In the advanced stages, there can be tunnel vision.
- Angle closure glaucoma:
- Extensive headache
- Inflammation of the eyes
- Vomiting and nausea
- Distorted eyesight
- Lights with halo effects
- Redness in the eyes
- Blindness if left untreated
- The damage of the optic nerve that causes glaucoma resulting in blind patches in the vision field is frequently associated with an increased ocular pressure for reasons that are not yet fully understood.
- Accumulation of a fluid that circulates within the eye causes elevated ocular pressure. Internal fluid usually drains out through a tissue called the trabecular meshwork where the iris and cornea meet. If this drainage is obstructed due to any reason, there can be accumulation, which can cause glaucoma.
- Genetic factors: Glaucoma can be hereditary.
Chronic types of glaucoma can cause vision loss before any symptoms appear. The risk factors are:
- Being over 60 years of age
- Being black, Asian, or Hispanic
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- Having diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, or sickle cell anaemia
- Having corneas that are thin in the centre
- Being highly nearsighted or farsighted
- Having experienced an eye injury or some forms of eye surgery
- Taking corticosteroid drugs for a long period, especially eye drops
- Glaucoma that is left untreated can lead to permanent visual loss or blindness.
- Treatments can help to prevent further vision loss, but they will not be able to restore vision that has already been lost.
- A doctor will go over the medical history and perform a thorough eye exam. They may proceed with a variety of procedures such as:
- Tonometry (measurement of intraocular pressure)
- Dilated eye examination and imaging studies to check for optic nerve injury
- Examining for regions of vision deterioration (visual field test)
- Determining the thickness of the cornea (pachymetry)
- Examining the angle of drainage (gonioscopy)
- Eye drops: Prescription eye drops are commonly used to treat glaucoma. It can help lower eye pressure by altering the fluid drainage from the eye or by reducing the amount of fluid produced by the eye.
- Laser treatment: In open-angle glaucoma, laser trabeculoplasty can be performed. It is carried out in the doctor’s office. A tiny laser beam is used to open congested passages in the trabecular meshwork. It could take a few weeks for the benefits of this surgery to be noticed.
- Filtering surgery: A new passage is created for drainage so that fluid does not continue to accumulate in the eye.
- Trabeculectomy: It is a surgical operation in which the surgeon makes an opening in the white of the eye (sclera) and removes part of the trabecular meshwork.
- Tubes for draining: A tiny shunt is created by implanting a tube into the eye by a surgeon to drain out excess fluid and relieve the eye pressure.
The following measures can help the general health of the body and better functioning of the eye thus preventing disease development or progression:
- A dilated eye examination performed on a regular basis. Glaucoma can be detected in the course of a full eye checkup, before it causes irreversible damage. Under 40 years of age, the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends having a full eye checkup every five to ten years.
- Familiarity with family health history: Glaucoma is a disease that usually occurs in families. If there are family members with the disease, there is a high risk of acquiring the disease and such people should be screened frequently..
- Physical activity: Regular moderate exercise can help prevent glaucoma by maintaining the general health of the body.
- Use eye drops prescribed by the doctor on a regular basis. Vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed by further loss can be prevented by regular use of prescription eye drops.
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