What is Glaucoma?
The green ring outlining the gradual enlarging of optic nerve “cup” shows the progression of the Glaucoma disease.
Glaucoma can be caused by increased pressure of the fluid in the eye. The inside of the eye contains fluid that is constantly flowing into and being drained out of the eye. If the drainage mechanism in an area called Trabecular meshwork gets blocked, fluid starts accumulating in the eye, exerting pressure inside the eye. This extra fluid that builds up in the eye presses against the optic nerve at the back of the eye, thus damaging parts of the optic nerve. This damage appears as gradual visual changes and then loss of vision, if it remains untreated.
Chronic Open Angle Glaucoma
The most common type of glaucoma, known as chronic open angle (COAG) or primary open angle, occurs when the canals draining the eye of aqueous humor become clogged. This blockage can gradually increase pressure within the eye to damaging levels. No pain occurs, so individuals are usually unaware that these changes are occurring. There are no early signs or symptoms but over the years vision will be lost starting in the periphery and moving towards the central vision.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
When eye pressure builds up rapidly, it is called acute angle-closure glaucoma. This type of glaucoma commonly occurs in individuals who have narrow anterior chamber angles. In these cases, aqueous fluid behind the iris cannot pass through the pupil thus pushing the iris forward, preventing aqueous drainage through the angle. It is as though a sheet of paper floating near a drain suddenly drops over the opening and blocks the flow out of the sink. In cases of acute angle closure glaucoma, one may experience blurred vision, halos around lights, deep pain behind the eye, nausea, and vomiting. Nethradhama advises its patients to have periodic eye examinations for early detection of glaucoma.
High pressure alone does not mean that you have glaucoma. In Nethradhama we put together many kinds of information to determine your risk for developing this disease. The most important risk factors include:
- Age (Over 40 years)
- Near-sightedness (Myopia)
- A family history of glaucoma
- Past injuries to the eyes
- A history of severe anemia or shock
- Diabetes/ Hypertension
The glaucoma specialist will weigh all of these factors before deciding whether you need treatment for glaucoma, or whether you should be monitored closely as a glaucoma suspect. Being glaucoma suspect means your risk of developing glaucoma is higher than normal, and you need to have a regular examination to detect the early signs of damage to the optic nerve.
There is no cure. However, Glaucoma can be controlled if detected early. Appropriate and timely treatment goes a long way in either slowing down or halting the progression of the disease.
Myths and Truths About Glaucoma
Glaucoma is a highly misunderstood disease. Frequently, patients do not even realize that they are affected by the disease and rarely have an inkling about its severity. Here are the most common myths and truths about glaucoma
Myth #1: Glaucoma is a disease that only happens to older people.
Everyone is at risk for glaucoma from babies to elderly people. But, older people are at a higher risk for glaucoma. However babies (approximately 1 out of every 10,000 babies are born with glaucoma) and young adults can also get glaucoma
Myth #2: Glaucoma is curable.
Glaucoma is not curable, however, it is manageable. But first it must be diagnosed. Often glaucoma can be managed with medication and/or surgery. This means that further loss of vision may be halted. However, glaucoma is a chronic disease that must be treated for lifetime.
Myth #3: There are symptoms that will warn you of glaucoma.
With open angle glaucoma, the most common form, there are virtually no symptoms. There is usually no pain involved with the rise in eye pressure. Loss of vision begins with peripheral or side vision. This type of vision loss can be easily compensated for (by turning the head to the side) and may not be noticed until significant vision is lost. The best way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to be tested so that if you have glaucoma, treatment can begin immediately.
Myth #4: Glaucoma does not cause blindness.
Glaucoma can infact cause blindness if it is left untreated. And unfortunately, many patients do not realise that are afflicted with glaucoma until they have lost nearly all vision.
What can you do?
As there are no warning signs or symptoms, don’t wait for visual problems to develop but get a thorough checkup at the age of 35 yrs, another at 40 yrs and every year thereafter. We have introduced two packages to diagnose and monitor Glaucoma.