What Is Glaucoma

Glaucoma refers to a category of eye disorders often associated with a dangerous build up of internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure or IOP), Glaucoma refers to a category of eye disorders often associated with a dangerous build up of internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure or IOP), which can damage the eyes optic nerve that transmits visual information to the brain. If left untreated, most types of glaucoma progress (without warning or obvious symptoms to the patient) towards gradually worsening visual damage and may lead to blindness. Once incurred, visual damage is mostly irreversible and this has led to glaucoma being described as the “silent blinding disease” or the “sneak thief of sight”.

What are the risk factors for Glaucoma?

Awareness and early detection of glaucoma are extremely important because this disease can be successfully treated when diagnosed early. While everyone is at risk for glaucoma, certain people are at much higher risk and need to be checked more frequently by their eye doctor. The major risk factors include:

  • Age over 45 years.
  • Family history of glaucoma.
  • Back racial ancestry.
  • Diabetes.
  • History of elevated intraocular pressure.
  • Nearsightedness (high degree myopia).
  • History of injury to the eye.
  • Use of cortisone (steroids) either in the eye or systemically (orally or injected).

What are symptoms of glaucoma?

Glaucoma can develop in one or both eyes. The most common type of glaucoma, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms at first. It causes no pain, and vision seems normal.Without treatment, people with glaucoma will slowly lose their peripheral or side vision. They seem to be looking through a tunnel. Over time, straight-ahead vision may decrease until no vision remains.

How is glaucoma diagnosed?

Glaucoma is detected through a comprehensive eye exam that includes:

  • Visual Acuity Test.
  • Family history of glaucoma.
  • Tonometry – Measurement of eye pressure.
  • Gonioscopy- Evaluation of drainage angle.
  • Pachymetry – Measurement of corneal thickness.
  • Dilated Eye Examination-Evaluation of optic disc.
  • OCT- Evaluation of optic nerve head.
  • Perimetry- Visual Field Testing.

How is glaucoma treated?

Eye drops with medication aimed at lowering IOP usually are tried first to control glaucoma. There is no cure for glaucoma as yet and vision loss is irreversible. Elevated intraocular pressure is currently the only treatable risk factor. Intraocular pressure can be reduced by:

  • Eye Drops
  • Surgery.
It is extremely important to use prescribed eye drops regularly and not to miss any dose.

What is the importance of glaucoma screening?

Routine screening eye examinations are mandatory since glaucoma usually causes no symptoms (asymptomatic) in its early stages. Once damage to the optic nerve has occurred, it cannot be reserved. Thus, in order to preserve vision, glaucoma must be diagnosed early and followed regularly. Persons above the age 40 years are advised to have their checked once in a year. This eye check up should include intraocular pressure measurement.