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What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a term used to describe an eye condition that damages the optic nerve. The damage is often caused by the fluid buildup in the front part of the eye, putting pressure (intraocular pressure) on your eye. If the damage to the optic nerve worsens, it can lead to permanent vision loss or total blindness.

Types of Glaucoma:

There are several types of glaucoma, which include:-

  1. Open-Angle Glaucoma (Chronic): Also known as wide-angle glaucoma, this is the most common type of this disease. Tiny deposits build up in your eye’s drain structure, slowly clogging them. This blockage causes pressure on the optic nerve. 
  2. Angle-Closure Glaucoma (Acute): Also known as closed-angle glaucoma, the space between your iris and cornea becomes too narrow in this condition. As a result, the drainage canals become clogged, causing a sudden buildup of pressure on your eye. 
  3. Normal-Tension Glaucoma: In normal-tension glaucoma, the optic nerves become damaged even when the eye pressure is within the normal range. The cause of normal-tension glaucoma is unknown. 
  4. Congenital Glaucoma: Some babies are born with glaucoma, known as congenital glaucoma. These babies have a defect in the angle of their eyes that prevents normal fluid drainage. 
  5. Secondary Glaucoma: This condition is often a side effect of injuries or other eye conditions, such as eye tumours or cataracts. 

What are the Causes and Risk Factors of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma results from pressure on the eye, leading to optic nerve damage. Your eyes produce a fluid known as aqueous humour that flows out of your eye through a mesh-like channel between the iris and cornea. When this channel gets blocked, the fluid builds up in the eye. This excess fluid puts elevated pressure on the eye, damaging the optic nerve and resulting in glaucoma. 

Other less common causes of glaucoma include:-

  1. Severe eye infection
  2. Chemical injury to the eye
  3. Blocked blood vessels
  4. Inflammatory conditions

Risk Factors of Glaucoma

Glaucoma can develop in all age groups, but the risk increases after 40 years. African Americans and Latinos get it more often in the early years than other races. 

Other risk factors of glaucoma include:-

  1. Family history of glaucoma
  2. High internal eye pressure
  3. Diabetes
  4. Farsightedness or hyperopia
  5. Nearsightedness or myopia
  6. High blood pressure
  7. Long-term use of steroid medications such as prednisone
  8. Use of certain drugs for bladder control 
  9. Previous eye injury or surgery
  10. Cornea thinner than usual

What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

Most people with open-angle glaucoma do not experience any symptoms except a gradual vision loss. It is, therefore, incredibly essential to have regular eye exams to diagnose the condition at its early stage because vision loss due to glaucoma is irreversible. 

On the other hand, angle-closure glaucoma comes with sudden, severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. The symptoms of glaucoma include:-

  1. Blurred or low vision
  2. Severe eye pain
  3. Redness in your eye
  4. Seeing halos around light
  5. Severe Headache
  6. Narrowed or tunnel vision
  7. Patchy blind spots
  8. Nausea
  9. Vomiting

How is Glaucoma diagnosed?

To diagnose glaucoma, your doctor will examine your family and medical history and conduct the following tests:-

  1. Dilated eye exam: To widen pupils and examine the optic nerve at the back of the eye
  2. Gonioscopy: To examine the drainage angle
  3. Pachymetry: To measure corneal thickness
  4. Tonometry: To measure intraocular pressure
  5. Visual field test: To check the changes in your peripheral vision
  6. Visual acuity test: To check for vision loss

What are the Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Glaucoma?

You cannot get your vision back once you lose it to glaucoma. However, routine checkups and treatment can slow or prevent vision loss, especially if you diagnose it at an early stage. The Non-Surgical treatment for glaucoma includes:-

  1. Eyedrops: Prescription eye drops can decrease the fluid and increase drainage to relieve eye pressure. Several types of eye drops, including prostaglandins and beta-blockers, can be used for this condition. 
  2. Oral medications: If eye drops alone do not relieve eye pressure, your doctor may prescribe oral medications. 

What are the Benefits of treating Glaucoma?

  1. High Success Rate
  2. Fewer chances of disease progression
  3. Helps restore the normal ocular pressure
  4. Prevents further vision loss

What may happen if Glaucoma is left untreated?

Glaucoma is a condition that results in permanent damage to your vision if left untreated. Once glaucoma progresses, and you lose your vision, it cannot be reversed. The condition can even lead to complete blindness if not diagnosed and treated for a long time. 

Therefore, it is essential to diagnose and treat glaucoma early to protect your vision. 

Stages of Glaucoma

  1. Stage 1: Glaucoma begins with an alteration in the eye’s ability to drain fluid from the drainage system, leading to increased intraocular pressure. 
  2. Stage 2: In the second stage, you will start to notice symptoms, including blurry vision and mild to moderate eye pain. 
  3. Stage 3: This is the advanced stage of glaucoma. Depending on the level of blockage, your doctor may recommend medications or surgery. 
  4. Stage 4: During the end-stage of glaucoma, little to no healthy tissue is left in the eye, and the vision is limited. Moreover, the risk of blindness is increased in this final stage.
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