☛ What is Glaucoma?
The optic nerve carries all the information from the eyes to the brain which controls the entire visual system. Glaucoma is a group of disease where there is damage to the optic nerve caused most often by increased pressure inside the eye.
☛ How common is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is the second commonest cause of blindness in the world next only to cataract and is the most common cause of irreversible blindness worldwide.
☛ How is eye pressure increased?
The eye contains a fluid called aqueous humor. If this fluid is produced excessively or its drainage in the eye is improper or malfunctioning, the eye pressure increases.
☛ Who can develop glaucoma?
Any individual above the age of 40 years may develop glaucoma. However, the following persons are at a higher risk of developing glaucoma namely those with
- Family history of glaucoma
- Diabetes mellitus
- Systemic hypertension
- Thyroid diseases
- Eye injury
- Intake of medications like steroids for a long time
☛ What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
In the early stages, glaucoma does not produce any symptoms and many a times a person inot aware until the disease is advanced. The patient may have symptoms like
- Frequent change of reading glasses
- Loss of peripheral field of vision (side vision)
- If the disease is left untreated, vision loss may worsen leading to total blindness over time.
☛ What are the different types of glaucoma?
Glaucoma can be of the following types
- Primary open angle glaucoma
In this form of glaucoma, the drainage passage through which the eye fluid drains out is physically open but may be poorly functioning. This form of glaucoma develops slowly and a person loses eyesight gradually. One eye may be affected more than the other eye.
- Angle closure glaucoma
In this type of glaucoma, the drainage passage through which the eye fluid drains out is physically narrow or closed either suddenly or gradually. If it develops suddenly, the condition is painful and the patient will complain of redness, severe eye pain, drop in vision, headache, vomiting etc. This condition is one of the ocular emergencies and the patient will need medical care right away to prevent permanent damage to the eyesight.
☛ How do I know whether I have glaucoma?
Anybody above 40 years should get their eyes checked up including the eye pressure. However, if there is any risk factor for development of glaucoma, then the eye examination should be done much earlier in life. Remember, glaucoma is asymptomatic until it is advanced.
☛ How is glaucoma treated?
Glaucoma is a disease which can be well controlled if diagnosed early. However, if any visual damage occurs before diagnosis, it is irreversible. Glaucoma requires lifelong follow up and treatment. The most common form of treatment for glaucoma is medications in the form of eye drops. The doctor will prescribe eye drops to reduce the intraocular pressure in the eye and these have to be applied every day at the stipulated time. There are other forms of treatment like (a) laser (b) Surgery which will be decided by the ophthalmologist.
All forms of treatment aim to stop further damage to the optic nerve by lowering the pressure in the eye.