The eye is a very important organ of the body as it is the organ of sight. There are certain eye defects or disorders such as hyper myopia (long-sightedness), myopia (short-sightedness), cataract and glaucoma which could pose serious damage to the normal functioning of the eye if appropriate care is not taken.
Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerves. Now, let’s break this down.
The optic nerves are nerve endings that transmit impulses from the eyes to the brain. The brain interprets these impulses as images, i.e., they can be likened to the medium of communication between the eyes and the brain.
Glaucoma is usually associated with pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure is caused by the improper drainage of the aqueous humour from the eye.
Aqueous humour is a transparent, watery fluid that is secreted from the ciliary epithelium in the eye. It is composed richly of amino acids, ascorbic acid, immunoglobulins etc and is made up of 98% of water. It circulates round the eye and functions in nourishing the avascular ocular tissues. It is also the hydrostatic pressure that helps keep the eyeball roughly in its spherical shape while also keeping it taut. The aqueous humour normally drains out of the eye through a spongy meshwork. But when the fluid either doesn’t drain out of the eye or drains too slowly such that a fluid buildup occurs, it causes pressure and stress on the optic nerves and glaucoma occurs. This is usually a very serious medical condition that gets worse over time and could eventually lead to vision loss and blindness.
However, the exact cause of the fluid’s improper drainage from the eye is unknown! That being said, preventing ourselves from getting this dangerous condition looks seemingly impossible, right?
Preventive measures can be taken if the risk factors are understood. Therefore, let’s take a look at the risk factors, prevention and treatment of glaucoma.
WHO ARE THOSE AT A HIGHER RISK OF BEING DIAGNOSED WITH GLAUCOMA?
As earlier stated, the underlying cause for glaucoma is not known, nevertheless, some people are at a higher risk than others. You could be diagnosed with glaucoma:
- If you have a high blood pressure.
- If someone in your family has glaucoma, there is a probability you could have it, as it is hereditary.
- If you’ve been taking corticosteroids medication, especially eye drops, over a long period of time.
- If you’ve had a serious eye injury or certain eye surgery in the past.
- If you’re African American over 40 years old.
If you belong in any of the groups listed above, it doesn’t automatically mean you would be diagnosed with glaucoma but it does mean you should take more precautionary measures, especially going for regular check up with your ophthalmologist (eye doctor).
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
At the initial stage, glaucoma could be accompanied by:
- Severe headache
- Eye pain and redness
- Blurry vision
However, as it progresses and remains untreated, you will start having straightforward, tunnel vision while missing objects by the sides, i.e. your vision would appear as though you were looking through a tunnel.
Photo credit: NEI
Diagnosis of glaucoma is usually done in a set of detailed, standard eye examinations carried out by an ophthalmologist. Some of the tests include but are not limited to: tonometry (examination of the inner eye pressure), perimetry (examination of the eye’s complete field of vision) and ophthalmoscopy (examination of the eye’s dilation).
The good news is that glaucoma can be managed if detected early, and that with medical and/or surgical treatment, most people with glaucoma will not lose their sight.
Vision loss from Glaucoma is irreversible!
At its early stage, Glaucoma can be managed through medications such as eye drops and surgery – laser surgery or traditional surgery – (this is why early diagnosis is advisable). Your health care provider will recommend the option that best suits you.
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