Each part of the body has various essential parts to play and help us to maintain a carefree life. When any mechanism or any part of the body fails to function all of sudden it can prove to be crucial and traumatic. There are various kinds of diseases and a medical condition which develop in the human body without showing any prior signs or symptoms and show up at a stage where it is difficult to get cured.
Glaucoma is one such eye conditions where a person might lose his/her eyesight suddenly for the rest of their life. Although it can affect anyone, people above the age of 60 years are more likely to get affected by it. Glaucoma can cause damage to the optic eye which may be irreversible if it is left untreated for a long time. The optic nerve in our eyes is responsible to transmit information from the eye to the brain for processing. In some cases, it has been seen that if detected at early stage glaucoma can be treated to slow the progression of the eye condition. However, till now no adequate cure has been found for glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness (above 60 years). It is a group of eye conditions that damages the optic nerve by abnormally high pressure on the eye. Most forms of glaucoma show no warning signs. The high pressure that is exerted on the eyes is known as intraocular pressure; this constant pressure can erode the optic nerve tissue and result in vision loss. Did you know? Glaucoma has been named as the silent thief of sight
Once the vision is lost due to glaucoma it cannot be restored but upon early detection, the pressure on the optic nerve can be lowered to keep the vision intact. Studies have shown that more than 3 million people get affected by glaucoma in the United States. Majority of the blindness caused in African American is due to glaucoma. To prevent it detection should be processed from the age of 35 years.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
The initial stage of glaucoma starts with the loss of side vision or peripheral, which affects the person’s ability to move around safely. If it ignored and left untreated it can further cause damage and wipe out the central vision too. Although there are no accurate signs or symptoms, the common signs that lead to detection may also vary depending on the stage and type of the condition the patient is suffering from-
One of the common symptoms of glaucoma is severe eye pain
-loss of side vision which appears in both the eyes
-tunnel vision (advance stage)
-patchy blind spots on the central vision
Congenital glaucoma in infants
This kind of glaucoma arises in infants during the first few years. Symptoms are:
-sensitivity to light
-clouding of the normally transparent cornea
-keeping the eyes closed most of the time
-rubbing of the eyes (seems like a habit)
Acute angle-closure glaucoma
-sudden blur vision/disturbance in vision
-feeling sick in the stomach
-the appearance of rainbow-coloured rings or halo around lights
-redness in the eyes, accompanied by pain (severe)
When detected on time glaucoma can be treated but 15% of the patients have been noticed to have gone blind at least in one eye in a time of 20 years.
Causes of glaucoma
A clear fluid called aqueous humour is produced at the back of our eyes. The fluid reaches and fills the front part of the eyes and eventually passes through channels present in the cornea and iris. If the fluid is overproduced or due to any reason the channels are blocked or obstructed partially, the liquid generates a pressure that eventually causes harm to the optic nerve. The natural pressure in our eyes which is known as intraocular pressure (IOP); increases due to the blockage.
The causes of the build-up pressure (in the eye) are not always known. However, certain factors might contribute to it-
- High blood pressure
- Dilating eye drops
- Inadequate amount of blood flow to the optic nerve
- No proper drainage of the fluid
- Medications with side effects
Glaucoma eye conditions tend to run in the family, if there is a history of several people affected by such eye conditions than in the later stage of life there is a high probability that other members of the family might get affected.
Diagnosis of glaucoma
A complete eye examination for glaucoma includes 5 tests that help to detect it. Before undergoing the tests the doctor may go through the family history and may also ask the patient if there has been any kind of injury or surgery in the past. One must go to a regular screening of the eyes from 40 years if you carry any risk factor.
The five kinds of test are-
- Tonometry – helps to examine the inner eye pressure by dropping a few eye drops to numb the eye. The normal pressure range is known to be 12-22 mm Hg
- Perimetry – also known as the visual field test, it observes the complete field of vision. Here the vision is tested to see whether glaucoma has affected the eye-sight or not.
- Ophthalmoscopy – determines the shape and colour of the optic nerve. The pupils are dilated with the eye drops after which the doctor looks at the optic nerve with the help of a small device that is equipped with a light on the end
- Gonioscopy – the angle in the eye is examined where the iris meets the cornea
- Pachymetry – determines the thickness of the cornea. This is a painless and simple test; a probe called a pachymeter is placed before the eye. The thickness of the cornea has the ability to add to the eye-pressure.
Diagnosis of glaucoma is not an easy procedure and therefore 5 tests are used to carefully examine and study the condition of the eye, especially the optic nerve. The prime goal of all such test is to protect the eyesight.
What are the risk factors?
Awareness about the risk factors of glaucoma is very essential as this eye condition does not give any kind of warning sign before arriving. Learning about the risk factors can help a lot to take the required measures-
- Age factor- over the age of 60 years
- Skin colour: Asian and African American
- Family history
- Presence of cornea in the eyes that is thin in the centre
- Eye injury or an eye surgery
- Using medications such as eye drops for a long time
- Suffering from medical conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, sickle cell anaemia or heart disease
- Eye condition: extreme farsightedness or nearsightedness
- Presence of high intraocular pressure (eye pressure)
Treatment of glaucoma
Glaucoma treatment is applied to slow the eye pressure on the optic nerve, as the damage cause can’t be reversed by any kind of medicine or surgery till date. Depending on the stage the disease is the treatments include oral medications, eye-drops, laser treatment, eye surgery, or a combination of any of the treatments.
Surgeries and other treatments for glaucoma include:
- Laser therapy- patients who have open-angle glaucoma laser therapy can be an option. A small laser beam is used to open up the clogged channels.
- Drainage tubes- in this process the eye surgeon inserts a small tube shunt on the eye to remove excess fluids and lower the eye pressure.
- MIGS- minimally invasive glaucoma surgery- this is one of the safest techniques to drain out the excess fluid of the eye and does not require to install any kind of drainage device to start the procedure
- Filtering surgery- also called trabeculectomy; in this surgery, an opening is created in the while part of the eye (sclera) and part of the trabecular meshwork is removed.
Precautions of glaucoma
Taking care of the body is the best gift that one can give to self. To prevent vision loss or the slow down the progress of glaucoma (if you have any risk factor); follow a few precautions and self-care guidelines-
- Exercise regularly and safely- exercise is quite beneficial for your overall health. If you are not sure about the kind of exercise required, consult with your doctor.
- Protect your eyes– injury in the eye can also lead to glaucoma, use a protective headgear or wear eyeglasses while involving in any kind of high-speed sports or using power tools
- Know your family history it is important to discuss and learn about your family history. If there are glaucoma cases in the family (grandfather/mother or forefather/mother then you can stay alert and go for regular eye-screening.
What are the side effects of glaucoma?
Glaucoma causes difficulties in vision which directly affects the mobility and direction sense of a person. it also causes difficulty in reading, as loss of partial vision can reduce the number of words the person views. The other side effects that are caused; occur from the glaucoma medications like prostaglandin analogs, alpha agonists, beta-blockers, alpha agonists, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors and rho kinase inhibitors. The side effects that result from all such glaucoma medications are-
-changes in the eye colour
-the darkness of eyelid skin
-reduce pulse rate
-shortness of breath
-low blood pressure
-likely to arise an allergic reaction
Carbonic anhydrase inhibitors
-discomfort in the eyes
-tingling sensation in the hands and feet
-small bleeds on the while area of the eye
-redness in the eye
Que 1. How quickly does glaucoma progress?
Ans- Acute glaucoma if left untreated for a while can lead to permanent vision loss
Que 2. Can you get glaucoma in only one eye?
Ans- Open-angle glaucoma is known to affect both the eyes but it does not always show up at the same time. Most patients usually develop it in both the eyes.
Que 3. Is watching TV bad for glaucoma?
Ans- It may not affect aversely but you need to provide rest to the eyes and not overstress it.
Que 4. What foods to avoid if you have glaucoma?
Ans- Avoid foods like cakes, doughnuts, fried items, cookies or a high fatty acid diet as it can damage the optic nerve
Que 5. How can I lower my eye pressure fast?
Ans- Try to limit your caffeine intake, sleep with your head elevated, exercise safely and take the prescribed medicines on time
Que 6. Is eye pressure of 20 high?
Ans- No, the normal eye pressure ranges from 12-22 mm Hg.
Que 7. What time of day is eye pressure highest?
Ans- the eye pressure is known to remain highest at early morning time between 6 AM to 8 AM.
Que 8. How can I check my eye pressure at home?
Ans- With the help of a tonometer device you can measure the eye pressure at home