According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide and affects over 80 million people globally. It is estimated that by 2040, 22 million individuals will be blind from glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma:
Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, which connects the eye to the brain, becomes damaged. It is usually caused by fluid building up in the front part of the eye, which increases pressure inside the eye and can lead to vision loss if not treated early.
Glaucoma can affect anyone, regardless of their age. While it is more common in people over 70, it is not unheard of for younger adults to be diagnosed with glaucoma.
Symptoms of Glaucoma:
Vision loss from glaucoma is often so subtle that people don't notice the problem. The disease gradually damages the optic nerve, a delicate cable that transmits visual messages from the eye to the brain. As glaucoma progresses, it can lead to tunnel vision or even blindness if left untreated.
Many of the factors that increase pressure inside your eye aren’t known. However, doctors believe one or more of these factors may play a role:
Types of Glaucoma:
Glaucoma is a condition that causes the eyeball to swell. There are five major types of glaucoma: open angle, angle closure, congenital, secondary, and normal tension.
1. Open-Angle Glaucoma
The National Eye Institute states that many people don't exhibit any symptoms until they lose their vision, and vision loss may not be immediately apparent.
Open-angle glaucoma does not have many symptoms. People may not realise they have open-angle glaucoma until they have damage to their vision.
Open-Angle Glaucoma can happen because of increased pressure in the eye, which blocks fluid flow from underneath the retina.
2. Angle-Closure Glaucoma
Angle-closure glaucoma is a condition that can lead to blindness; it is caused by a blockage of the drainage angle, which is where fluid leaves your eye. Angle-closure glaucoma can be an emergency, so you must call your doctor if you experience pain or nausea while experiencing blurred vision.
3. Congenital glaucoma (Childhood glaucoma)
Congenital glaucoma is a rare eye disease that affects new-borns. These infants usually have a defect in the angle of their eyes, leading to slow or incomplete fluid drainage. Congenital glaucoma can be present at birth with excessive tearing, cloudiness in the eyes, and sensitivity to light. Parents need to visit an ophthalmologist if they notice signs of congenital glaucoma.
4. Secondary Glaucoma
Secondary glaucoma develops due to another eye condition and is often caused by injuries, cataracts (clouding in the eye's lens), or other eye tumours. Other common causes include corticosteroids and recent eye surgeries.
5. Normal-Tension Glaucoma
Normal tension glaucoma is diagnosed based on the same criteria as open-angle glaucoma. However, a few essential features include progressive excavation or 'cupping' of the optic nerve head (ONH) from retinal nerve fibre layer loss, resulting in corresponding visual field deficits.
6. Glaucoma Diagnosis
Glaucoma tests are painless and take only a few minutes. Your eye doctor will test your vision by using drops to widen (dilate) your pupils and examine your eyes. They will check your optic nerve for signs of glaucoma and may take photographs so they can spot changes at your next visit. They will do a test called tonometry to check your eye pressure. If your doctor suspects glaucoma, they may order special imaging tests of your optic nerve.
Treatment of Glaucoma
According to the NHS, reversing any vision loss that started before glaucoma was discovered is impossible. Treatment can help stop vision from getting worse, but the type of treatment you need depends on your diagnosis.
Eyedrops are the primary treatment for glaucoma, an optic nerve disease. They are normally used between 1 and 4 times a day. You will need to use them even if you don't notice any problems. You may need to try several types before you find the one that works best for you. Sometimes you may need to use more than one type at a time.
If eyedrops don't improve your symptoms, laser treatment may be recommended. This is when a high-energy beam of light is carefully aimed at a part of your eye to stop fluid from building up inside it. Laser treatment is usually carried out while you are awake, and local anaesthetic drops are used to numb your eyes for pain or heat. You may still need to use eyedrops after having laser treatment.
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, but it is vital to catch it early to begin treatment. The best way to detect any type of glaucoma early is to have an annual eye care appointment. Make an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Simple tests performed during these routine eye checks may be able to detect damage from glaucoma before it advances and begins causing vision loss.