Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

There are many types of glaucoma, but all relate to damage of the optic nerve which connects the eye to the brain’s visual processing centre. Glaucoma’s most common cause is high pressure within the eye itself. By far the most common type is called open-angle glaucoma

In most glaucoma cases, sight is slowly lost, starting with peripheral vision. While this process can be stopped with medical intervention, the damage is permanent.

Closed-angle glaucoma is a more severe kind. It can in turn lead to angle-closure glaucoma which is a sudden and serious medical emergency.

Risk of glaucoma is elevated:

  • following prolonged steroid use
  • if diabetic retinopathy is present
  • after physical damage to the eyes
  • if there is a family history of the disease
  • in people of Asian and Inuit heritage

 

While glaucoma has been known to medicine since at least the 1500s, the precise way that high pressure within the eye triggers the disease has not yet been identified conclusively.

How common is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is second only to cataracts as the leading cause of blindness. More common among older people, estimates for how many people have it globally range up to 70 million.

There are many types of glaucoma, with the mildest, open-angle glaucoma, by far the most common. The more severe kinds only accounts for around 10 percent of cases.

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

Sometimes called the ‘thief of sight’, glaucoma’s classic symptom is a slow deterioration of peripheral vision which progresses to a loss of central vision.

Other symptoms include:

  • painful eyes
  • eye redness
  • persistently dilated pupils.

 

Expert medication examination will be able to detect many other subtle signs.

Glaucoma symptoms

Treatment options for Glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is a gradual condition that, while still needing rapid diagnosis, gives plenty of time for treatment options. Left untreated, complete blindness will not occur for decades (if at all).

For more acute types of glaucoma, the vision loss can be sudden. Regardless of onset speed, vision lost to glaucoma cannot be restored.

While not reversible, glaucoma is highly treatable and the progression of the disease can be stopped or slowed  through:

  • medication
  • special eye drops
  • laser
  • surgery.

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