What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of complex diseases that result in blindness secondary to damage to the optic nerve, one of the structures essential in providing clear vision. The most common type of Glaucoma is known as Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma and it occurs in about 7 out of 10 glaucoma patients. In this type of Glaucoma, the fluid pressure inside the eye builds up and the high pressure levels cause permanent damage to the optic nerve, resulting in vision loss.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is largely considered an asymptomatic disease. Elevated eye pressure is not felt by a person until it is 3-4 times higher than normal. Glaucoma is naturally a slow progressing disease that causes loss of peripheral vision long before central and detailed vision is affected. It is typically unnoticeable until the advanced stages.
What Causes Glaucoma?
As mentioned earlier, glaucoma is caused by a buildup of fluid within the eye, which increases intraocular pressure. The front part of the eye is filled with a watery fluid called aqueous humor that continuously circulates. This fluid brings nourishment to important structures within the eye. Normally, this fluid leaves the eye through a drainage system called the trabecular meshwork. This is located in the angle where the cornea and the iris meet. In glaucoma, the “drain” becomes partially “clogged,” causing the fluid to back up. The eye is a closed compartment, which causes the pressure to begin to increase. After a while this pressure causes compression or squeezing of the optic nerve which can lead to optic nerve damage and even nerve death. When nerve cells die, permanent visual loss results.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is diagnosed through one or more comprehensive eye examinations. Multiple tests are done to assess all of the risk factors that you may have. An eye pressure check and a dilated eye exam are essential to evaluate the optic nerve. Other tests are performed to evaluate your peripheral vision and the integrity of other important eye structures.
- Checking the pressure in your eyes with a simple and painless device called a tonometer
- Examining your optic nerve by looking into the back of your eyes after dilating your pupils, images and measurements are also taken if the optic nerve
- Measuring your current field of vision to see if you have lost any sight, particularly in your peripheral vision.
How Is Glaucoma Treated?
The only treatment for Glaucoma is to lower eye pressure, which can be done in multiple ways. Most commonly, eye drops are used to lower eye pressure. Your Doctor may also recommend a Laser Procedure or another surgery to help maintain low eye pressure.
How Can I Avoid Glaucoma?
There is nothing specific that can be done to avoid developing Glaucoma as its risk factors are not controllable. Regular comprehensive eye exams are essential for the early detection and treatment of Glaucoma to prevent its severe forms.