What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause progressive damage of the optic nerve at the point where it leaves the eye to carry visual information to the brain.
If left untreated, most types of glaucoma progress, without warning nor obvious symptoms to the patient, towards gradually worsening visual damage and could eventually lead to blindness. And if sight is lost to glaucoma, the visual damage is mostly irreversible. This is why glaucoma has also been labeled as the “silent blinding disease” or the “sneak thief of sight”.
Types of glaucoma
- Primary glaucomas
When experts don’t know what causes a type of glaucoma, that type is called a primary glaucoma.
– Open-angle glaucoma
– Normal-tension glaucoma
– Angle-closure glaucoma
– Congenital glaucoma
- Secondary glaucomas
Sometimes glaucoma is caused by another medical condition — this is called secondary glaucoma.
– Neovascular glaucoma
– Pigmentary glaucoma
– Exfoliation glaucoma
– Uveitic glaucoma 11
Who is at risk?
There are people who are more vulnerable to getting glaucoma. This includes:
• People over the age of 40
• People with family members who have glaucoma
• People with high eye pressure
• Those who have suffered from an eye injury
• People who use long-term steroid medications
• Those who have thin corneas
• People who have a thinning optic nerve
• People living with diabetes, migraines, high and low blood pressure, poor blood circulation or other health problems that affect the whole body.
While you may not be able to fully control the onset of glaucoma, you can take preventative steps to help minimize the risk of glaucoma, including:
• Routine eye checks
• Following a nutritious and well-rounded diet
• Exercising regularly to promote blood flow
• Not smoking
• Regulating caffeine intake
• Protecting your eyes from injury, trauma and the sun (wear eye protection) .
Glaucoma tests are painless and do not take too long. The best way to spot glaucoma early on is through regular eye exams with your eye-care professional, including:
• Using drops to dilate your pupils and examine your eyes
• Do a test called tonometry to measure your intraocular pressure (IOP).
• Perform a field vision test to check your peripheral vision and ensure you are not losing any side vision.
• Check your optic nerve for any signs of glaucoma.
While glaucoma damage cannot be reversed, and it is not always possible to fully stop the progression of the disease, it can almost always be slowed with proper treatment. Treatment is dependent on your specific case and type of glaucoma, but can include:
• Prescription eye-drops
• Surgery and special therapies
• Laser therapy
• Filtering therapy (Trabeculectomy)
• Inserting drainage tubes
• Minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS)
New treatment research is focused on lowering pressure inside the eye, finding medications to protect and preserve the optic nerve from the damage that causes vision loss, and the role of genetic factors.