A disease characterized by optic nerve damage and visual field loss. It is the major cause of irreversible blindness worldwide. It is painless and progressive.
Two main forms of glaucoma
- Open angle glaucoma
- Angle closure glaucoma
- There are several subtypes of glaucoma that fall within these categories Open vs. closed angle glaucoma
- Open angle glaucoma is generally associated with progressive painless loss of vision.
- Acute angle closure glaucoma is associated with severe ocular pain and redness, headache, nausea, and vomiting
Most common form:
Primary open angle glaucoma
- Asymptomatic until advanced stages
- Over half of these patients are unaware that they have the disease
WHO IS AT RISK FOR GLAUCOMA?
Everyone should be concerned about glaucoma and its effects. It is important for each of us, from infants to senior citizens, to have our eyes checked regularly, because early detection and treatment of glaucoma are the only ways to prevent vision impairment and blindness. There are a few conditions related to this disease that tend to put some people at greater risk.
This may apply to you if:
- Someone in your family has a history of glaucoma
- Age: If you are over 40 and have not had your eyes examined regularly
- Near-sightedness [myopia]
- Any injury to your eyes
- Secondary to other ocular conditions [cataract, inflammation, tumours etc.]
- Long-term use of steroid (cortisone) medication.
Why does glaucoma occur?
- Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) occurs as a result of defective drainage of fluid within the eye.
- Increased intraocular pressure (IOP) and/or poor blood flow to the optic nerve directly damages the optic nerve
What is “normal” eye pressure?
- A range between 5-21 mm Hg
- However, we now know that glaucoma can occur even in the setting of “normal” intraocular pressure
How do we diagnose glaucoma?
- Check vision and eye pressure (high eye pressure is a major risk factor for glaucoma)
- Look for signs of optic nerve damage
- Test for visual field loss
- Other non- invasive special investigations
How do we treat glaucoma?
Goal of glaucoma treatment
Prevent blindness by lowering intraocular pressure and halting progression of optic nerve damage
- Most treatment modalities lower eye pressure by decreasing aqueous humor production or by increasing aqueous humor outflow.
- Compliance with medical treatment and follow-up
- Glaucoma medications work only when taken as prescribed. It is important to take the medications regularly.
- Frequent visits to your doctor (typically a minimum of 3 – 4 times per year) are necessary to make sure that the medications are effective.
HOW DO I MINIMIZE THE RISK OF GETTING GLAUCOMA?
You need an eye examination –
- Every 18 – 24 months if you are age 39 years or older,
- Every 12 months if: a family member has glaucoma,
- If you have had a serious eye injury in the past, or if you are taking steroid medication [tablets or eye drops].