Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by an abnormally high pressure in your eye. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness for people over the age of 60. The timely and correct treatment of glaucoma can prevent blindness.
We at KMC Eye Hospital pay special attention in glaucoma diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and research. We help patients proactively manage glaucoma and ensures that they maintain as much vision as possible.
One might not have any symptoms until the loss of significant amount of vision. The first sign is often the loss of your side vision. It happens slowly, so you may not notice the changes.
There are varied types of Glaucoma. Each one of them have different symptoms and treated differently:
Open-Angle Glaucoma, Chronic Open-Angle Glaucoma (COAG), Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma: These are all names for the same condition, which happens to be the most common type. With this condition, you might not have any symptoms until you lose a significant amount of vision.
Acute Closed- or Narrow-Angle Glaucoma: In this type of Glaucoma the symptoms strike quickly with severe throbbing eye pain, eye redness, headaches (on the same side as the affected eye), blurry or foggy vision, halos around lights, dilated pupil, nausea and vomiting
Congenital Glaucoma in Infants: This usually shows up in newborns or during your baby’s first few years. Symptoms include like tearing, sensitivity to light, and eyelid spasms, a larger cornea and clouding of the normally transparent cornea, habitual rubbing of the eyes, squinting, or keeping the eyes closed much of the time.
Secondary Glaucoma and Other Forms: Symptoms depend on what’s causing your pressure to rise. Inflammation inside your eye can cause you to see halos. Bright lights might bother your eyes.
Glaucoma mostly affects adults over 40, but young adults, children, and even infants can have it.
You are at risk if:
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Have poor vision
- Have diabetes
- Take certain steroid medications such as prednisone
- Have had an injury to your eye or eyes
- Have corneas that are thinner than usual
- Have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, or sickle cell anemia
- Have high eye pressure
- Are nearsighted or farsighted
Open-Angle Glaucoma requires lowering the eye’s pressure by increasing the drainage of aqueous humor fluid or decreasing the production of that fluid. Medications can accomplish both of these goals. Surgery and laser treatments are directed at improving the eye’s aqueous drainage.
If not diagnosed early, open-angle glaucoma may significantly damage vision and even cause blindness. That is why it’s so important to have your eye doctor test you regularly for glaucoma. Once diagnosed, glaucoma is usually controlled with eye drops that reduce eye pressure. Glaucoma is a life-long condition and needs continual follow-up with your eye doctor.
Acute Angle-Closure Glaucoma is usually laser treatment. This is permanent and do not require long-term therapy. For this type of glaucoma, making a hole in the iris to allow fluid to drain, called an iridectomy, is the standard treatment to cure it. The unaffected eye also is usually treated to prevent a future attack. However, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly, as some people may develop a case of chronic angle-closure glaucoma later in life, even after laser treatment.
If the glaucoma does not respond to medication, or if you cannot tolerate the side effects, your doctor may change medications or recommend one of several surgical techniques:
Laser trabeculoplasty creates small laser burns in the area where the fluid drains, improving the outflow rate of aqueous fluid. This relatively brief procedure can often be done in an ophthalmologist’s clinic.
Trabeculectomy is a surgical procedure that creates a new channel for fluid outflow in cases in which the intraocular pressure is high and the optic nerve damage progresses. Long-term results vary, but generally, the success rate is good.
Surgical implants that shunt fluid out of the eye may also be used to decrease pressure in the eye.
Both drugs and surgery have high rates of success in treating chronic glaucoma, but you can help yourself by carefully following the doctor’s treatment plan. Some patients may find it difficult to follow a regimen involving two or three different eye drops. Be candid and tell the doctor if you cannot follow the medication schedule or if the eye drops cause unwanted side effects. There are frequently alternative treatments. Because of potential drug interactions, be sure to tell your doctor about any other medical problems you have or other medications you take. If glaucoma drops causes the eyes to become chronically red, consult your doctor about switching to preservative-free glaucoma drops that may alleviate the redness from preservatives.
Remember, all forms of medical or surgical treatment have potential benefits and risks. Before giving your consent, always ask the surgeon to clearly explain any treatment or surgery as well as the proposed benefits, effective alternatives, and potential risks or complications.