What is Glaucoma and how can it be cured?
Glaucoma refers to a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve of the eye and can worsen over time. This is generally linked with the pressure build up inside the eye. Damage of the optic nerve can further lead to loss of vision. While it is most common in elderly people, it can also occur at any age.
People with glaucoma do not experience any symptoms to indicate this condition. It occurs gradually and can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
Causes of Glaucoma
The back of our eye makes a clear fluid called aqueous humor. This fluid leaves the eye through a mesh like channels in the cornea and iris. In case the channels get blocked, the liquid builds up and increases the natural pressure present in the eye, called Intraocular Pressure (IOL). Increased IOL further damages the optic nerve.
There can be more than one reason for the increase in IOL. Some of them include-
- High Blood Pressure
- Dilating Eye Drops
- Reduced blood flow to the optic nerve
- Intake of certain medications
While these can be some reasons for increase in IOL but Glaucoma can be hereditary too. This condition tends to run in families.
One can be at high risk for glaucoma, if they –
- Are above 40 years of age
- Have a family history of Glaucoma
- Have Diabetes, high blood pressure or heart disease
- Have poor vision or high eye pressure
- Had an eye injury
- Intake certain medications
- Have thinner cornea
- Are far sighted or near sighted
Be alert if you fall into any of these categories and get your eyes checked immediately.
Types of glaucoma
Mainly, there are two types of Glaucoma-
It is also known as wide angle glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma has no signs except for gradual vision loss. This is the most common type of glaucoma.
It is also known as acute angle closure glaucoma. This happens when the iris bulges forward or blocks the drainage and obstructs the flow of the fluid. Now, this increases the pressure inside your eye and damages the optic nerve.
There can be cases when the passage between iris and cornea is narrow. This will result in further build up of pressure in the eye.
Other types of Glaucoma
This is caused due to an injury or another condition like Cataracts. Diabetes can also add pressure in the eye.
In this condition,the optic nerve gets damaged even when the eye pressure is normal. There is no exact reason for this type of condition, but sensitive optic nerve or lack of blood supply to the optic nerve can be a reason.
This is when tiny granules of coloured parts from Iris build up in the drainage, which in turn, slows down or blocks the drainage channel. This builds up pressure in the eye and causes optic nerve damage.
Glaucoma can occur in children due to congenital reasons. It may be present from birth or can develop later in life. Some symptoms for this can be- Cloudy vision, excessive tearing of the eye or sensitivity to light.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
It can be difficult to determine Glaucoma at early stages because it occurs gradually but reaches the advanced stages quickly. But there are a few symptoms that can indicate Glaucoma. They are-
- Severe Headache
- Throbbing Eye pain
- Dilated Pupil
- Halos around lights
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurry Vision.
- Redness in the eye
If you face any of these symptoms, consult a doctor at the earliest.
If you are facing any of the severe complications in your eye, schedule an eye check-up immediately. The doctor will perform tests for Glaucoma. First, the doctor will collect your medical history and general health assessment.
Then your doctor will perform several tests, like:
- Tonometry: Check the Intraocular Pressure
- Pachymetry: To check the thickness of cornea
- Gonioscopy: Inspect the drainage angle
- Perimetry: A visual field test to check areas of vision loss
- Dilated Eye Examination: To test for optic nerve damage
The doctor might then take photographs of the optic nerve to have a side-by-side comparison later.
How is Glaucoma treated?
After all the required tests have been done, then the treatment options for Glaucoma are discussed. The doctor will suggest the following treatment options, based on the test results and severity-
The treatment of Glaucoma starts with the prescription for eye drops. These help in decreasing the pressure of the eye either by lowering the production of fluid or improving its flow.
The doctor may also prescribe oral medications such as a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor. These can improve the drainage or slow down the formation of the fluid.
Laser surgeries can help in improving the drainage of fluid within the eye. It can raise the flow of the fluid, in case of open-angle glaucoma and stop the blockage of fluid, in case of angle-closure glaucoma. This includes the following procedures:
- Trabeculoplasty: This procedure opens the drainage area.
- Iridotomy: A tiny hole is made in the Iris to let the fluid flow more easily.
- Cyclophotocoagulation: In this, the areas of the middle layer of the eye are treated to lessen the fluid production.
In this, a procedure called trabeculectomy is performed. The doctor creates a new channel to drain out the fluid and help ease the pressure.
After the surgery, there are certain precautionary measures that can also be taken to avoid high pressure, including:
- Eat Healthy
- Limit Caffeine intake
- Elevate your head while sleeping
- Protect your eyes
- Avoid rubbing or scratching your eye
- Exercise Carefully
You will need to have continual follow-ups with the doctor after surgery. This is to ensure that no further complications arise in the eye.
Glaucoma can get dangerous, if not treated at the earliest. Make sure to schedule your eye check-ups at regular intervals and consult your doctor immediately in case of any problem.