Glaucoma is one of those diseases whose arrival is very covert and is only discoverable later when it has reached its advanced stage. This is why having Glaucoma becomes riskier as there is no symptom until there is nothing left to do, as Glaucoma has no permanent recovery. Let us take a stepwise approach in knowing Glaucoma fully and begin with the question;
What is Glaucoma?
In Glaucoma, your eye’s optic nerve gets damaged, and the function of the optic nerve is to relay information to the brain, which the brain interprets as images. Your optic nerve must be healthy for a strong vision.
It occurs due to internal atypical high pressure in your eyes. It typically occurs in older age and can lead to vision loss, though it can happen to anyone. Its effect is only visible once it reaches its advanced stage and gives no warning signs before that.
Glaucoma cannot be recovered, and it is imperative to keep a check on it by having regular eye exams. But if you recognize it early, you can take precautions, treatments that may help slow its rate, or, in very few cases, prevent it. With glaucoma, a person is bounded with eye treatments for the rest of his life.
What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?
Knowing that Glaucoma doesn’t show its effects too soon, there are still some ways you can at least understand and get your eyes checked before it becomes too late. The symptoms, though vary depending on the type of Glaucoma you have; some may include;
~ Open-Angle Glaucoma: This is the kind of Glaucoma that doesn’t show any symptoms till the end; that is why its recommended to have yearly comprehensive eye exams. Still, in some rare cases, you can look out for signs like:
- Patchy blind spots in your central or peripheral vision
- Having a tunnel vision is a symptom of advanced stage
~ Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma or Narrow-Angle Glaucoma:
- Severe headache
- Pain in eyes
- Sudden Blurred Vision
- Halos or colored rings around lights
- Redness in eye
- Abrupt vision disturbances
What are the causes of Glaucoma?
The reason behind the occurrence of Glaucoma is simply the damage to the optic nerve. The nerve deteriorates gradually, and it creates blind spots in your visual field. It begins from the back of the eye that produces a fluid called Aqueous Humor, filling the frontal part of your eyes and exiting through your cornea and iris. If they cannot leave or are obstructed by any chance, they create a natural pressure in the eyes, which is called intraocular pressure or IOP. With the increase in IOP, the optic nerve tends to become more damaged. The more the damage, the more the vision loss increases. Pressure can be created for numerous reasons like dilating eye drops, medications like corticosteroids, reduced blood flow to your optic nerve, or elevated blood pressure.
How is Glaucoma be diagnosed?
~ An annual routine comprehensive eye examination is done to diagnose Glaucoma. There are no signs or symptoms of glaucoma so it is usually picked up on a routine full eye examination.
Routine Glaucoma Check Consists of:
~ Checking family and medical history -through personal family history, general health assessment, and see that maybe your eye can be affected by diabetes or high blood pressure. Family history is the number one cause of glaucoma.
~ An Eye Pressure Test- A “tonometry” test is performed to check the internal pressure of the eye. This can be done by Air Puff (less reliable, performed for screening only) or Goldman applanation tonometry (gold standard). Goldman applanation tonometry is performed with a slit lamp, anesthetic eye drops and applanation touches your eye and actually measures it, using a blue light.
~ Pachymetry test- a measurement to see if your corneas are thin, as thin corneas have an increased risk of developing Glaucoma.
~ A Visual Field Test- “Perimetry” test, helps us detect any unnoticed visual loss – (peripheral vision or central vision) affected by Glaucoma. An ERG, electroretinogram, can be performed on glaucoma suspects as well.
~ Optic Nerve Examination. This is usually done through a dilated eye exam. In this eye exam, the optic nerve is checked for damage. (Damaged optic nerve is the actual glaucoma). If you nerve is suspicious for damage the doctor may take routine photos and scans of your optic nerve at your visits.