What is glaucoma?
It is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve of the eye, resulting in the irreversible blindness. The optic nerve is the cable that connects the eye to the brain. Progressive damage to the optic nerve will lead to visual field constriction and eventually blindness.
Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness worldwide. It was estimated that by 2010, there were 60.5 million people with glaucoma and 8.4 million of them were blind in both eyes, worldwide. These numbers are estimated to reach79.6 million and 11.2 million respectively by 2020.
Who are at risk of developing glaucoma?
While glaucoma may occur at any age, older individuals are more commonly affected. A person may have higher chances of having glaucoma if he/she has any of the following risk factors:
- High intraocular pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- Age over 45 years
- Previous eye injury/ surgery
- On chronic steroid use
- Diabetes mellitus
- Of Chinese ancestry
- Myopia or hyperopia
Persons with these risk factors should be examined for the presence of glaucoma by an Ophthalmologist.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Most often, glaucoma patients will not experience any symptoms. Some patients may have on/off eye discomfort, see haloes around lights, and blurring of vision. The peripheral vision is first affected and patients will often be observed to be bumping into objects/furniture. Visual loss occurs when more and more of the visual field becomes affected.
Occasionally, some patients may suffer from an acute attack of glaucoma. They will experience severe eye pain, accompanied by headache, nausea and vomiting, eye redness, and blurring of vision.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
A complete eye examination will detect the presence of glaucoma. Measurement of the intraocular pressure, assessment of the optic nerve, and evaluation of the angles, are done. Diagnostic tests to analyze the visual field and the optic nerve are performed to assess the eye.
How do you treat glaucoma?
As of today, glaucoma cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. The Ophthalmologist will use a combination of eyedrops, laser and incisional surgeries, to keep glaucoma controlled. The aim of treatment is to prevent the patient from getting worse, since the damage incurred cannot be undone anymore.
Glaucoma patients will require periodic checkups to monitor the condition.
Click here for the Glaucoma Infographic.