This year World Glaucoma Week will run from 11th March – 17th March and its purpose is to raise awareness of this eye condition. Here I will go through what glaucoma is and how it can be treated.
What Is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a common eye condition where the optic nerve, this is the nerve that connects the eyes to the brain, becomes damaged. Glaucoma is commonly caused by a build up of pressure inside of the eye. The eye ball itself contains a fluid which the eye is continually producing, and any excess fluid is drained away through tubes. When this excess fluid cannot be drained away as normal it builds within the eye, which in turn, increases the eye pressure, also called intraocular pressure (IOP). The excess fluid can then damage the optic nerve which can cause vision loss and if left untreated can cause blindness.
Types of Glaucoma
There are various types of glaucoma and the main 4 are:
1. Chronic Open-Angle Glaucoma – this type of glaucoma is the most common and develops slowly over time.
2. Primary Angle-Closure Glaucoma – this type of glaucoma is rare and can develop slowly like open-angle glaucoma, but it can also develop very quickly with a sudden onset of painful pressure within the eye.
3. Secondary Glaucoma – this type of glaucoma is caused as a result of an eye injury/trauma or as a secondary to another eye condition.
4. Congenital Glaucoma – this type of glaucoma is another rare type developing in children and is normally caused due to an abnormality of the eye.
Symptoms of Glaucoma
For many people that develop glaucoma, especially with the most common type, there may be no symptoms initially. Symptoms develop slowly over time and will only then start to affect the peripheral vision. For this reason, it is imperative for everyone, especially those with a family history of glaucoma, to visit an eye clinic at least every two years as this is often the place where glaucoma is picked up first. Apart from the most common type of glaucoma and its symptoms, sometimes more rare glaucoma can have a sudden onset of symptoms such as a headache, nausea, eye pain, blurred vision, and red eyes. If any of these symptoms are experienced it is vital to see an ophthalmologist or optician as soon as possible.
Treatments for Glaucoma
As soon as glaucoma has been diagnosed, there will be treatment options discussed.
1. Eye Drops – treating glaucoma with eye drops is probably the most common treatment and will likely be what the majority of people will be started on at diagnosis of the condition. Eye drops help lower the eyes internal pressure and keep this under control to avoid the build up of pressure damaging the optic nerve. It is important to follow the exact instructions given by the eye specialist when using these drops to make sure they are as effective as possible.
2. Laser Treatment – if eye drops are not being effective enough in treating glaucoma, then laser treatment may be offered. There are two types of laser treatment that can be done for glaucoma; the first is using the laser to open the blocked tubes, which are used to drain the eyes fluid, by making small holes in the tubes thus allowing more fluid to be drained. The second option is to use the laser to destroy some of the tissue that makes the fluid, which allows less fluid to be produced and in turn lowers the eyes pressure.
3. Surgery – the last option that may be offered is surgery to improve drainage. There are various surgical options, but the most common one is called a trabeculectomy. During this surgery some of the trabecular meshwork (tubes to drain the fluid) are removed which then allows for normal drainage of the fluid and lowers the internal eye pressure.
There is no way to prevent glaucoma, but early detection of the condition and treatment can help ensure it is controlled, stop vision getting worse, and prevent any further damage. Any damaged previously caused by glaucoma to the optic nerve cannot be reversed.
If you suspect any symptoms of glaucoma make sure you book an appointment with your eye clinic and always attend regular eye tests.
Author: Samer Hamada is a distinguished consultant ophthalmologist and cornea surgeon performing eye surgeries at his practice, Eye Clinic London. With nearly two decades’ experience, Mr. Hamada is recognised as a leading expert in the field of cataract, refractive lens exchange (RLE) and corneal surgeries.
Please visit http://eyecliniclondon.com/
Please call 0800 197 8808 for friendly advice and information.