What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a family of more than 30 diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve, which takes visual information to the brain. Damage to this nerve, which is irreversible, impairs vision and, if left untreated, eventually causes blindness. In whatever form, glaucoma is serious. It is especially dangerous because it often progresses without obvious symptoms until vision is already severely damaged. This is why it is often called the “sneak-thief of sight.” There is no cure for glaucoma, but if diagnosed early, it is possible to arrest the development or slow glaucoma and prevent permanent vision loss with appropriate and ongoing treatment. If you develop glaucoma you can still live a productive and satisfying life.
HOW IS IT CAUSED?
Glaucoma is most often, but not always the result of increased pressure within the eye (intraocular pressure or IOP) to abnormal levels. No one quite understands why. The eye has internal pressure created by the production of a clear fluid called aqueous humor. This fluid circulates through the eye
and exits through the channels in the front of the eye in an area called the anterior chamber angle, or simply the angle, and ultimately drains into
the bloodstream. Anything that slows or blocks the flow of this fluid out
of the eye causes pressure to build up, the trigger for glaucoma. Studies have shown you are at greater risk if you:
Have elevated eye pressure.
Are over the age of 60.
Have a family history of the disease.
Are of African descent and over the age of 40.
Have diabetes or hypertension.
Have other eye conditions.
Are taking steroid hormones, including corticosteroids eye drops, over a prolonged period.
Since early warning signs of glaucoma are rare, it is important, especially for those at risk, to have medical eye examinations at appropriate intervals.
Since anyone can have glaucoma, and particularly because there are usually no recognizable early symptoms, don’t wait for noticeable eye problems
to get checked. Regular eye exams are the key to detecting glaucoma early enough for successful treatment. Adults age 40 and over should have a comprehensive eye exam, and if you don’t have any glaucoma risk
factors, every three to five years thereafter. After age 60, you should be screened every year.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT
Glaucoma treatment seeks to lower eye pressure and prevent further damage to the optic nerve by either reducing the rate of fluid production or increasing the outflow of fluid from the eye. Different types of glaucoma require different therapies, depending on the severity. These range from eye drops to surgery. The length of time the pressure remains lowered depends on the treatment, the type of glaucoma,
the patient’s individual characteristics and how he or she complies with prescribed treatments and follow-up visits.
YOUR OPHTHALMOLOGIST WILL PRESCRIBE THE BEST COURSE OF ACTION FOR YOU AFTER A FULL EXAMINATION AND DISCUSSION. MAKE SURE YOU ARE AWARE OF
IT IS VITAL TO DISCLOSE ALL MEDICATIONS YOU MAYBE TAKING AND CONDITIONS YOU MAY HAVE. IT IS ALSO EQUALLY IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF YOUR DOCTOR.