Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness worldwide. In most of the cases, this eye disease goes unnoticed because glaucoma initially causes no symptoms and the loss of side vision (peripheral vision) is usually not recognized by the patient in earlier stages. However, by being a little alert, we can always catch the warning signs for glaucoma.
Lets know about these warning symptoms of glaucoma along with tips on its management and treatment. We will also discuss about how to prevent glaucoma.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a very common eye disease which leads to irreversible blindness. Glaucoma affects the major nerve of vision known as the optic nerve. Optic nerve transfers visual messages to the brain due to which we are able to see. When this nerve gets damaged, it impairs one’s vision. Glaucoma has a set pattern of progressive damage to the optic nerve where it normally begins with a subtle loss of side vision called peripheral vision. If we catch the warning symptoms of glaucoma earlier then it can be treated in time to avoid the loss of central vision which ultimately leads to blindness.
How is Glaucoma Caused?
Glaucoma is usually caused by a build up of pressure in the eyes (intraocular pressure). The elevated eye pressure causes damage to the optic nerve of the eye. The disease affects both the eyes but not always to the same extent. A fluid called aqueous humor provides nourishment to the front part of the eyes. In normal circumstances, this fluid continually gets drained which helps in maintaining optimal pressure inside the eyes. However, due to certain factors including age, disease, trauma etc. the channels draining the aqueous humor fluid get blocked causing unusual pressure on the optic nerves leading to glaucoma. Sometimes glaucoma may also occur even when there is normal eye pressure. The cause for this type of glaucoma is believed to be the poor regulation of blood flow to the optic nerve.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is rightly called the silent vision stealer because it doesn’t shows off symptoms in the early stage. In the most common type of glaucoma called Open Angle Glaucoma or Chronic Glaucoma, side vision gets affected first and the person might not at all notice the loss of peripheral vision. By the time 90% of patients reach a doctor, they have already lost 50% of their vision which cannot be regained due to permanent damage to the optic nerve.
In other type of Glaucoma called Angle Closure or Acute Glaucoma, there is sudden rise of eye pressure which causes severe eye pain, blurred vision, sudden visual disturbances, halos around light, reddened eyes, nausea and vomiting These symptoms require immediate treatment to prevent blindness. Therefore, a person should always get alert whenever the following warning symptoms are experienced.
• Inability to adjust eyes to dark rooms like theatres
• Poor night vision
• Frequently changing eye glass prescription
• Gradual loss of peripheral vision (side vision)
• Blurred vision
• Feeling a blind spot in the eye/eyes
• Seeing coloured halos like rainbow around the light
• Severe eye pain, facial pain, nausea, vomiting and headache
• Redness in the eyes
Who are at Risk of Glaucoma?
Anyone can get glaucoma. However, a person is at a greater risk if glaucoma runs in his or her family. If a close first degree relative has or had glaucoma, one should always get eyes checked up annually without fail because then the risk is even greater. People with following run higher risk of getting glaucoma.
• 45 years of age or above
• Lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, or hormonal diseases like thyroid disorders
• Use of steroid for longer period
• History of ocular trauma or intra ocular surgery
Can Glaucoma be Cured?
Once glaucoma damages the optic nerve, it cannot be cured because it is a permanent damage which is irreversible. However, glaucoma can be controlled so that further damage to the optic nerve can be stopped or slowed down. Glaucoma can only be controlled by an ophthalmologist through disciplined and regular treatment which might be required for the whole life of the patient.
How Does an Ophthalmologist Manages and Treats Glaucoma?
The management of glaucoma by an ophthalmologist includes such methods as medical management; surgical management; and management by lasers.
Medical Management of Glaucoma
In this method, the optalmologist prescribes certain eye drops to be instilled in the affected eye of the patient of glaucoma.
Surgical Management of Glaucoma
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to carry out a surgery for making an opening to create a new drainage pathway for the fluid to leave the eye. This avoids building up of pressure in the eye. In some other more difficult cases, the ophthalmologist might place valves and shunts through surgery in order to manage glaucoma in a better way.
Laser Management of Glaucoma
It includes such procedures as Iridotomy where a laser is used to make a hole in the eye to preclude the chance of acute attack. Other lasers can also be done by the opthalmologist for open angle glaucoma.
How to Prevent Glaucoma?
Although there is no proven way for prevention of Glaucoma, it can be detected early by frequent monitoring and regular eye check-up. As glaucoma can affect people of any age group including newborns, infants, children and elderly, early detection is the only key to preserve vision and avoid blindness due to the irreversible eye disease glaucoma.
What Precautions Should Glaucoma Patients Take?
• Glaucoma patients must have their medicines exactly as prescribed by the doctor.
• They should ask doctor about the right time and right way of using eye drops. Thereafter, they should use the right drop in the affected eye as told by the doctor.
• They should try to schedule time for having medicine around their daily routine like on waking up, during meal times, and at bedtime.
• They should not drink large amounts of water on empty stomach early in morning because this habit temporarily increases the intra ocular pressure which is not good for the patients of glaucoma.