Glaucoma belongs to a group of diseases that damage the optic nerve. The optic nerve, which contains more than a million nerve fibers, connects the eye to the brain. This important nerve is responsible for transmitting images to the brain.
The fibers of the optic nerve form the part of the retina that gives us vision. This layer of nerve fibers can be damaged when the pressure in the eye (intraocular pressure) becomes too high. Over time, due to high pressure, nerve fibers die, leading to vision problems. If left untreated, glaucoma is more likely to cause vision loss and blindness.
Glaucoma has been dubbed the "vision hijacker" because it often goes unnoticed and causes permanent damage to the eye. In the early stages of the disease, symptoms are usually absent. Many people suffer from glaucoma but do not know it, which makes it a very scary invisible eye disease.
Glaucoma usually occurs when fluid builds up in the eye, creating higher pressure than the eye can handle. The channel responsible for the exit of this fluid is clogged, which prevents an adequate exit.
In other cases, the eye may drain more fluid than usual and simply cannot drain fast enough, resulting in higher intraocular pressure. Researchers are not sure what exactly makes some people more susceptible to this problem.
Other causes can include trauma, genetic disorders, and low blood flow to the optic nerve.
High intraocular pressure increases the risk of developing glaucoma. Those over 40 and African Americans are also at higher risk. Anyone in their 60s is most at risk, especially Mexican-Americans.
Also, people with a family history of glaucoma have a higher risk of developing glaucoma. Systemic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart problems also increase your risk. Other risk factors include myopia and direct eye injury.
There are two main types of glaucoma: primary or chronic open angle glaucoma (POAG) and acute angle closure glaucoma.
- Chronic glaucoma: Open-angle glaucoma damages the eye without warning signs. This is the most common type of glaucoma and is often called the "silent type." Damage occurs over time, usually without prior notice.
- Acute angle-closure glaucoma: Angle-closure glaucoma occurs quickly. A "seizure" can cause redness and pain in the eye and symptoms such as facial pain, headache, blurred vision, rainbow halos around lights, nausea, and vomiting. This is a medical emergency.
How is it diagnosed
- Tonometry: Tonometry is a key test in the diagnosis of glaucoma . A tonometer measures eye pressure , more commonly known as intraocular pressure.
- Gonioscopy: A gonioscopy may be done to look at the corner of the eye and determine if it is open or closed. An optic nerve health check is also important to assess any damage that may have occurred due to glaucoma. If damage is suspected, your doctor may measure your general field of vision with a computerized perimeter or analyze the nerve fiber layer with a scanning laser ophthalmoscopy.
The goal of glaucoma treatment is to lower the pressure in the eye to a level where damage no longer occurs.
- Treatment is administered using prescription eye drops and sometimes oral systemic drugs.
- Laser treatments have been shown to work as well as drugs to prevent further damage.
- In some cases, when medications or laser procedures fail to achieve this goal, surgery can help.
- Therapy often includes a combination of these treatments.
It is important to understand that glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Unfortunately, vision loss caused by glaucoma cannot be corrected.