What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a condition that damages the optic nerves in the eyes. Glaucoma is caused by very high levels of fluid pressure in the eyes. This is known as Intraocular Pressure (IOP). Glaucoma can be classified into two categories: open-angle and closed-angle, each with unique characteristics symptoms. Characteristics like speed of onset and associated effects. Open-angle glaucoma develops over a period of time and has no obvious signs such as pain until late in the disease’s progression. On the other hand, closed-angle glaucoma causes severe pain on onset along with nausea, vomiting and greatly increased IOP. Closed-angle glaucoma is a medical emergency, unlike open-angle glaucoma. Glaucoma is considered a type of neuropathy, a condition which damages the nerves. It’s also the second major cause of blindness worldwide, right after cataracts.

Causes and Effects of glaucoma:

There are a variety of factors believed to cause glaucoma. However, the underlying causes have yet to be identified with any certainty. Dietary factors, genetic factors like congenital conditions and other conditions like diabetic retinopathy are believed to be some of the main causes. Glaucoma, if left untreated leads to a deterioration of vision and, in extreme cases can damage the eyesight permanently. In most cases, peripheral vision is the first to be affected. This is usually progressive, meaning it happens over a period of time, making it hard to notice until later, at which point, surgical intervention might be necessary. Glaucoma, if left untreated could lead to a permanent loss of vision.

Signs and Symptoms:

In most cases, glaucoma is hard to diagnose unless it’s caught early during an optic exam. The progression of the condition is slow and is not accompanied by obvious signs like pain or a sudden, drastic fall in vision. In cases like closed-angle glaucoma, however, the signs are patently obvious.

Here are some of the signs to look for:

  • High intraocular pressure
  • Reduction in peripheral vision
  • Blurry vision (closed-angle)
  • Intense pain (closed-angle)
  • Nausea (closed-angle)
  • Vomiting (closed-angle)

As you can see, most of the obvious signs are present only in closed-angle glaucoma. This is why glaucoma is generally called “the silent thief of sight”.

Diagnosing and Treating Glaucoma:

Glaucoma can be caught early in check-ups with ophthalmologists using specialized equipment that can test for field of vision and deterioration of the optic nerve. The damage done to the nerve can, if caught be stopped from progressing if caught early and be treated. Treatments for glaucoma vary depending on the state of the disease. If detected early, the disease can be treated with a combination of eye drops and medication aimed at relieving intraocular pressure to prevent further damage to the optic nerve. In severe cases, surgery or laser treatments that reduce IOP are the only option. Conventional surgeries relieve the pressure on the eye by making an incision to allow excess ocular fluid to drain out, reducing the pressure on the eyes. The same effect can be achieved by laser surgery. Both these procedures are outpatient procedures that don’t require spending the night at a hospital. Each of these surgeries have their benefits and drawbacks so, it’s wise to consult a doctor before opting for a surgery. There are side-effects to be considered too, and the success rates of these surgeries can vary.

Preventing Glaucoma:

The general consensus among doctors is that glaucoma cannot be prevented, only treated. However, there are steps to take that could stop the progression of the disease. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Practice regular eye care. Getting tested can spot the disease and prevent deterioration
2. Elevated eye pressures can be treated with prescribed medicines and eye drops
3. Healthy diets and regular exercise helps.
4. Eye protection is essential. Eye injuries can lead to glaucoma.

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