Glaucoma is a health condition that is the result of a number of mechanisms that produce increased pressure within the eye. This increased eye pressure causes damage to the eye nerve over time. Unfortunately, the damage caused by glaucoma to the eye nerve is irreversible. There are no symptoms associated with most forms of glaucoma, a reason why it is also referred to as the ‘silent thief of vision’.
The eye is a crucial body part. The eye captures information about shape, colour, and movement, and sends it to the brain. The brain then processes this information to enable us to see the world. Like the blood pressure, we have pressure in the eye.
Causes of Glaucoma
For unknown reasons which eye specialists don’t understand, increased pressure within the eye is normally, but not always, associated with the optic nerve damage that characterizes glaucoma. This pressure is due to a build-up of a fluid that flows in and out of your eye.
This fluid normally exits your eye through a drainage system at the angle where the iris and the cornea meet. When the drainage system doesn't work properly, the fluid can't filter out of the eye at its normal rate, and pressure builds within your eye.
The most common types of glaucoma- primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma have different symptoms.
Primary open-angle glaucoma signs and symptoms include:
Acute angle-closure glaucoma signs and symptoms include:
- Eye pain
- Nausea and vomiting, accompanied by extreme eye discomfort
- Sudden onset of visual disturbance, often in low light
- Blurred vision
- Halos around lights
- Reddening of the eye
The objective of the treatment is to prevent further damage to the eye nerve. However, it cannot recover the loss. One treatment method doesn’t overtake the other, e.g. surgery for glaucoma may not necessarily score over the eye drops and none of them can cure the disease. Each treatment modality has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some of the treatment methods include:
- Eye drops: The anti-glaucoma eye drops minimize the secretion of eye fluid and thereby reduce the eye pressure. Eye drops may cause a burning or stinging sensation upon application. This is often due to the antibacterial agent present in the drop solution and not due to the drug itself. While it can be uncomfortable, the discomfort lasts for only a few seconds. It is important that you take your medication exactly as it is prescribed if you are to control your eye pressure.
- Medication: Sometimes, drops are not enough to control the eye pressure. In that case, oral medications may be prescribed in addition to the drops. They do have more side effects compared to the eye drops. Therefore, they are usually prescribed for a short period to control the eye pressure.
- Laser procedures: These procedures are advised in certain types of glaucoma. The most common laser procedure performed for the so called angle-closure glaucoma is called laser iridotomy. This procedure takes between one and three minutes, is painless, and is performed on outpatient basis. You can resume normal activities in a short time following the procedure.
- Surgery: The most common anti-glaucoma operation is called trabeculectomy. In this procedure, the surgeon removes a small section of the eye wall to facilitate drainage of the eye fluid. This procedure is usually done after giving anaesthetic injection around the eye on an outpatient basis.
The process of managing glaucoma doesn't end by treating the patients alone. Glaucoma appears to ‘run’ in families. The tendency for developing glaucoma may be inherited.