Glaucoma is one of the eye diseases that should be prevented rather than cured because, generally, when it presents symptoms, it means that the disease is very advanced. Vision is gradually lost, leading to irreversible blindness.
The importance of periodic vision check-ups is absolutely recommended and necessary to treat this disease on time. All the field of vision that is lost is not recovered.
Glaucoma is the main cause of blindness, as well as in many other countries around the world. Between 1 and 4% of the population suffer from it, increasing the risk among people over 50 years of age.
How glaucoma affects the eye
Broadly speaking, glaucoma damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for sending images to our brains. It is caused by an excessive accumulation of a liquid produced by the eye in its frontal part and which fails to drain (release) properly. This excess fluid exerts internal pressure ( intraocular pressure or IOP ) that compresses and degenerates the optic nerve fibres.
What people are at risk of developing glaucoma?
People who are in any of these situations are at higher risk of glaucoma:
- They have ocular hypertension: which is detected in ophthalmological check-ups.
- They have a family history of glaucoma (increases risk by up to 50%).
- Are older than 40 years: the risk increases with age.
- They are diabetic.
- They have cataracts, moderate-high myopia or suffer from migraine.
- They have thin corneas.
- They are of Asian or African ethnic origin.
- They had an eye injury.
- They have blood circulation problems.
In these cases, you should discuss your situation with the specialist so that he can determine the necessary controls and start a treatment that stops the disease. Regular reviews can prevent blindness. Do not forget it!
What is the cause of glaucoma?
A healthy eye produces a clear fluid, called aqueous humour, which flows to the front and then out through a microscopic channel, or drainage angle. The same amount of liquid that flows out has to come out as well. This constant circulation allows for maintaining a balanced intraocular pressure.
When the drainage angle is partially or totally obstructed for some reason, the aqueous humour cannot escape, it accumulates and exerts pressure. This generates an additional force that compresses and damages the small fibres of the optic nerve, preventing blood from supplying them well and they die. As a consequence, as the nerve fibres die, blind spots appear in our vision. If they all die, total blindness will occur, which is irreversible.
What types of glaucoma are there?
There are two types of glaucoma, mainly, which are differentiated by the degree of obstruction that the drainage channel has. That is if it is partially or completely clogged.
It is the most frequent glaucoma. The eye does not drain fluidly due to partial obstruction, and the accumulated fluid gradually presses and damages the optic nerve. The effects are not immediate, since initially we do not notice variations in vision or feel pain, but we can gradually lose the peripheral visual field. The most important thing is to detect it in time to treat it and prevent the disease from advancing.
Angle-closure or narrow-angle glaucoma
This type of glaucoma is produced by a total obstruction of the drainage channel that can sometimes appear suddenly. It produces pain, blurred vision, headache, loss of visual acuity and even nausea. Your treatment is urgent. It can result in blindness if not immediately treated.
It is one that is linked to some other disease. In any case, your specialist should be aware of your general health status as well as any family history that may be related to glaucoma.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
The best way to diagnose glaucoma is by performing a series of tests to determine if the optic nerve is damaged, such as:
- eye pressure measurement
- Fundus examination
- Checking the visual field (campimetry)
- Test with OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) to observe if there is a decrease in the fibres of the optic nerve and the macula.
- Check the drainage angle.
What is the treatment for glaucoma?
Glaucoma will be treated with drugs or surgery to reduce the pressure in the eye. If the disease is in an initial state, it can be treated with drops.
If the glaucoma is advanced, it will be necessary to perform surgery (sometimes by laser) to help drain the aqueous humour that does not drain naturally. One of the techniques that are practised is trabeculectomy.
In any case, to avoid reaching irreversible situations, JLR Eye Hospital recommends a periodic visit to your ophthalmologist, who will tell you how often you should have check-ups.