Glaucoma is defined as a group of conditions that cause damage to the optic nerve, which sends visual information to the brain. This damage is due to abnormally high pressure, called intraocular pressure, in the eye caused by a buildup of fluid (the aqueous humour) that flows in the eye.
Although glaucoma can occur in any age group, it is more common in older adults. Glaucoma has no warning signs, it is, therefore, important to have regular eye exams to measure eye pressure so it can be diagnosed early.
This condition tends to be hereditary and when diagnosed early, blindness can be prevented or slowed down. If left untreated, glaucoma can eventually lead to blindness. There are several types of glaucoma, some of these include:
Open-angle (primary or chronic) glaucoma: This is the most common form of glaucoma, responsible for 90% of all glaucoma cases. This is caused when the drainage canals (where fluids exit the eye) in the eye become clogged gradually, thus increasing the pressure in the eye. This type of glaucoma has symptoms and cause damage which is not noticeable in its early stages.
Angle-closure (acute or narrow-angle) glaucoma: This is a less common form of glaucoma. It is also caused when the drainage canals in the eyes become blocked, causing a sudden rise in intraocular pressure. This type of glaucoma develops very quickly and those who suffer from this form of glaucoma require immediate medical attention. It causes symptoms and damage that are easily noticeable.
Normal-tension glaucoma: This type of glaucoma is also called normal-pressure glaucoma or low-tension glaucoma. With this type of glaucoma, the optic nerve becomes damaged even though eye pressure is not high. It is unknown why an individual’s optic nerves become damaged when there is no pressure. However, it has been purported that it is due to having sensitive optic nerves or poor blood supply to the optic nerve.
Congenital glaucoma: this type of glaucoma occurs in babies due to an abnormality in the eyes. In uncomplicated cases, it can be treated with surgery and medication.
Moreover, there are other types of glaucoma, some of which include: secondary glaucoma, pigmentary glaucoma, traumatic glaucoma, neovascular glaucoma.
Signs and symptoms
Majority of individuals who suffer from glaucoma do not experience any symptoms, it is, therefore, important to ensure you go for routine eye examinations. However, a few signs and symptoms can occur occasionally. These may include:
Patchy blind spots in the peripheral (side) or central vision;
Blurred or narrowed vision;
Nausea and vomiting;
Redness, pain or tenderness in the eye;
Seeing halos around lights
Risk factors for glaucoma
Glaucoma is caused by damage to the optic nerve due to the buildup of fluid in the eyes. It is unknown why the buildup of fluid occurs. However, here are some risk factors that increase the risk of developing this condition.
High intraocular pressure
The family history of glaucoma
Being over 40 years of age
Having thin corneas
Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
Eye injury, trauma or certain types of eye surgery
Having certain medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes
Prevention: lowering your risk of glaucoma
Glaucoma cannot be prevented, however, with early diagnosis, it can be controlled. Early diagnosis is important as lost vision cannot be recovered. Some of the methods to lower your risk of glaucoma include:
Going for routine eye examinations: Routine eye exams can help detect glaucoma early before significant damage occurs. This is especially important because the majority of those affected do not experience symptoms.
Owing to the fact that glaucoma can be hereditary, those with a family history of glaucoma will need frequent eye examinations. In a diagnosis of glaucoma, the use of recommended eye drops significantly reduces the risk of intraocular pressure which can lead to glaucoma. Microsurgery and laser surgery can also be used to treat glaucoma.
For those at risk of developing glaucoma, it is also important to ensure a healthy lifestyle. Some suggestions include:
Engaging in physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight;
Ensuring a healthy diet;
Avoid alcohol abuse and smoking;
It is also important to wear protective gear when engaging in high-risk activities.
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