Glaucoma- the sneak thief of sight

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The following is taken from a health brochure published by The Tun Hussein Onn National Eye Hospital.  I find the brochure is simple for the layman to understand and want to share it here. Please read more about the risks and look out for free eye tests that hospitals sometimes carry out. Sign up for these tests. Glaucoma is a silent disease- there is usually no pain or discomfort. If detected early, just a simple laser treatment, followed by daily eyedrops would help to put the condition under control. If not discovered on time, eventually the build up pressure would cause blindness.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that can lead to damage to the eye’s optic nerve and result in blindness. It is caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) resulting in either from a malformation or malfunction of the eye’s drainage structure.

Glaucoma is frequently referred to as the “SNEAK THIEF OF SIGHT” because IT PROGRESS WITHOUT OBVIOUS SYMPTOMS.

What is the Optic Nerve?

A bundle of more than 1 million nerve fibers. It connects the retina, the light sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye with the brain. 

How does Glaucoma Damage the Optic Nerve?

Glaucoma can cause damage when the aquaeous humor (a fluid that inflates the front of the eye and circulates in a chamber called the anterior chamber) enters the eye but cannot drain properly from the eye. Elevated pressure inside the eye, in turn, can cause damage to the optic nerve or the blood vessels in the eye that nourish the optic nerve.

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Who is at Risk?

Although anyone can get glaucoma, some people are at higher risk than others:

  • Everyone over the age 40
  • People with a family history of glaucoma
  • Individuals with other eye diseases which may secondarily result in glaucoma or elevated pressure.
  • There is a strong prevalence in diabetes.

 

Common Types of Glaucoma

  • Open angle glaucoma (chronic)
  • Closed angle glaucoma (acute)
  • Low tension or normal tension glaucoma
  • Congenital glaucoma (seen in infants)
  • Secondary glaucoma (result of injury or trauma)

Signs & Symptoms?

Glaucoma is an insidious disease because it rarely causes symptoms. However, certain types, such as angle closure glaucoma and congenital glaucoma do cause symptoms.

Angle Closure (Emergency)

  • Sudden decrease of vision
  • Extreme eye pain & redness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Glare & light sensitivity

 

Congenital

  • Tearing
  • Light sensitivity
  • Enlargement of the cornea
  • Loss of peripheral vision

A person with glaucoma may notice that although he sees things clearly in front of them, they miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. 

How is Glaucoma Detected?

  • Visual acuity test
  • Visual field charting
  • Pupil dilation
  • Tonometry

Treatment

A wide variety of treatments are available for reducing the intraocular pressure, the only known effective treatment for glaucoma. 

Medicine: Medicines are the most common early treatment for glaucoma. They come in the form of eyedrops and pills.

Laser surgery (also called trabeculoplasty): A special lens is held to your eye. A high energy beam of light is aimed at the lens and reflected onto the meshwork inside your eye. The laser makes 50- 100 evenly spaced burns. These burns stretch the drainage holes in the meshwork. This helps to open the holes and lets fluid drain better through them. 

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Conventional surgery: A new channel for aqueous humor (fluid) to drain into the blood circulation is created. This will enable the intraocular pressure to be maintained at normal tension.

What you can do to protect your vision?

If you are being treated for glaucoma, be sure to take your glaucoma medicine everyday.

Routine eye exams with monitoring of intraocular pressure and visual field examination is done.

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