Glaucoma is an ailment that affects the eyes. It is one of the leading cause of blindness in the world with 65 million people suffering from this condition. It is also the second major cause of blindness, first one being cataract. The prevalence of Glaucoma is highest in African nations followed by Asia. It is a matter of grave concern that of all the people suffering from Glaucoma, 5% eventually lose their sight. Even with appropriate treatment 10% people still experience significant loss in sight.
What is Glaucoma ? Glaucoma is a condition of optic nerve damage. Optic nerve is the channel through which the images captured through our eyes are transmitted to the vision centre of our brain. When this nerve deteriorates slowly over a period of time, we gradually lose our sense of sight.
Our eye contains a clear fluid, called aqueous humour, that keeps the eye healthy by nourishing various internal parts like cornea and the lens. This fluid periodically get drained through the drainage system of the eye to maintain the pressure inside the eye cavity. In Glaucoma, pressure inside the eye cavity increases due to fluid build up, usually in the front part. This progressively strains the optic nerve and causes irreversible damage to it. Surprisingly a person loses as much as 40% of vision without even realizing it.
What are the types of Glaucoma ? There are two major types of Glaucoma, as described below.
- Primary Open-angle Glaucoma: It is most the common type that is caused due to inadequate drainage of the fluid inside the eye. It is usually painless and detected quite late. So early examination can help detect early signs of optic nerve damage.
- Primary angle-closure Glaucoma: When the drainage angle is narrow or blocked in eye pressure builds up. This type of Glaucoma may present with an “acute attack”, which is a medical emergency. Many people with angle closure develop slowly. So, if not detected and treated early, can lead to blindness.
What are the risk factor for development of Glaucoma ? Though Glaucoma can develop in any person, there are certain risk factors associated with this condition.
- Family history of Glaucoma
- Age more than 40 years
- Medical conditions that builds high eye pressure
- Diabetes, Hypertension
- Chronic steroid use
What are the symptoms of Glaucoma ? Most people do not realize any issue in vision until the damage is quite severe. The process of optic nerve damage is irreversible and that’s why Glaucoma is called the “Silent Thief of Sight”. Only regular eye examination can detect the condition. Sometimes acute angle closure Glaucoma can present with severe headache, blurring of vision, severe pain and redness of eyes.
How can Glaucoma be prevented? As stated earlier, it is not a preventable condition; buyt, it can be controlled. Regular eye check-up is the best course of action to control Glaucoma. The diagnosis tests generally include:
- Eye pressure check
- Visualization of drainage angle
- Examination of optic nerve
- Visual field evaluation
- Photograph of optic nerve
- Measurement of thickness of Cornea
How is Glaucoma treated / controlled ?
- Medical treatment like eye drop
- Surgical treatment if not controlled with drops
- Laser treatment