Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness. It is a major eye problem afflicting millions of people worldwide. It is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. As the population increases, the number of people with glaucoma also increases, posing a substantial public health challenge worldwide. As much as half of vision can be lost without a person noticing.
The high-risk groups include people over 60, family members of those already diagnosed, diabetics, and people who are severely near-sighted (wearing minus glasses). The Person wearing high plus glasses are also at risk of another type of glaucoma.
Glaucoma causes the fluid to drain too slowly out of the eye, causing pressure that can cause vision loss by damaging the optic nerve. This nerve acts like an electric cable and is responsible for carrying images from the eye to the brain. High eye pressure is associated with most chances of glaucoma but some people with normal eye pressure can also have glaucoma.
There are two major types of glaucoma. Primary open-angle glaucoma and Primary Angle-closure glaucoma. The open type of glaucoma is painless and causes no vision changes in the beginning. The Patient realises a vision loss only in later stages. Annual eye check up is a good way to diagnose early glaucoma.
Angle-closure glaucoma type happens when someone’s eye is so small that fluid is not able to go out of eye and pressure rises very quickly. This is called an acute attack and an eye emergency, in which the patient can have vision loss, redness, pain, coloured lights in front of his eye. This should be tackled immediately.
Eye doctors check for glaucoma as part of a comprehensive dilated eye exam and if something looks suspicious of glaucoma – they refer to a glaucoma specialist. The specialist evaluates the patient in detail with some additional test if required like gonioscopy to see the angle so as to determine the type of glaucoma, tonometry to measure the eye pressure, a visual field test to check your peripheral (side) vision, optic coherence tomography to see the optic nerve.
On the basic of clinical evaluation and some or all of these tests, the specialist decides whether the patient has glaucoma or not, and whether to start treatment or observe the patient.
There is yet no cure for glaucoma, but early diagnosis and treatment can often stop the damage and protect your vision. The appropriate treatment will be decided by the specialist after discussion with the patient. The treatment consists of medications, laser or surgery which will depend on the type and stage of glaucoma.
The medicine prescription eye drops are the most common treatment. The aim of these anti glaucoma drops is to lower the pressure in your eyes to prevent the damage to optic nerve. Laser treatment is done in angle closure patients to open the drainage angles of your eye, so that more fluid can go outside and lower the eye pressure.
It’s a simple procedure that your doctor can do in the clinic. If medicines and laser treatment don’t work, surgery is suggested. Different surgical procedures are performed for treating glaucoma with different success rates.
There are few things which the patient should remember and follow when treatment of glaucoma is initiated- If medicine is prescribed, be sure to take it every day. If there are multiple medicines given by the doctor, make sure to put them in the eye with a minimum of ten min gap between the two medicines.
If there are some side effects like extreme redness, swelling after use of medicine, inform your doctor immediately. Regular eye check is very necessary in glaucoma management. Encourage family members to get checked for glaucoma, since it can run in families.
If glaucoma is detected in its early stages, eye pressure can be controlled and the progression of the disease can be delayed. The aim of glaucoma management is earliest possible diagnosis and based on the stage of glaucoma treatment is started. Regular follow up is must.
The best and the ONLY way to protect your sight from glaucoma is to get a comprehensive eye examination, which is different from the basic eye exam for glasses. Regular eye examinations are especially important for those at higher risk for glaucoma, who need a comprehensive dilated eye examination every 6 months to 1 year.