All You Need To Know About Glaucoma




The only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with acomplete eye exam

Glaucoma (known as Kala Motia in hindi) is called a ‘silent thief of sight’. The reason is that it causes permanent, irreversible loss of vision gradually and the patient doesn’t even know! There are usually no complaints such as pain, redness, watering etc. for which one would consult a doctor immediately. By the time the patient starts feeling difficulty in vision, much damage has already taken place, which cannot be restored. Treatment can only prevent further loss of vision but cannot bring back what has already been lost. 

With this background, let us know more about this serious eye disease: 

What is Glaucoma?

​Glaucoma is a disease which occurs when fluid builds up in the front part of the eye. That extra fluid increases the pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve.

There are two major types of glaucoma:

Primary open-angle glaucoma

This is the most common type of glaucoma. It happens gradually, where the eye does not drain fluid as well as it should (like a clogged drain). As a result, eye pressure increases and starts to damage the optic nerve. This type of glaucoma is painless. There are no warning signs or obvious symptoms in the early stages. 

Most people with open-angle glaucoma do not notice any change in their vision until the damage is quite severe. Having regular eye exams can help your ophthalmologist find this disease before you lose vision. 

Angle-closure glaucoma (also called “closed-angle glaucoma” or “narrow-angle glaucoma”)

This type happens when the structure of the eye is such that the drainage angle is narrow. If the drainage angle gets completely blocked, eye pressure rises very quickly. Vision becomes suddenly blurry, there is severe eye pain with headache and vomiting. This is called an acute attack. It is a true eye emergency, and if not treated quickly, one can lose vision rapidly and go blind.

Who Is At Risk for Glaucoma?

Some people have a higher than normal risk of getting glaucoma. This includes people who:

  • are over age 40
  • have family members with glaucoma
  • are farsighted or nearsighted
  • have had an eye injury
  • use long-term steroid medications
  • have corneas that are thin in the center
  • have thinning of the optic nerve
  • have diabetes, migraines, high blood pressure, poor blood circulation or other health problems affecting the whole body

If you have any of these risk factors, you must consult an ophthalmologist and have regular eye check-ups to detect and treat the disease in the early stage.

Glaucoma Diagnosis and Treatment

The only sure way to diagnose glaucoma is with a complete eye exam. Early detection and treatment is the key to preventing permanent blindness. In most cases of open angle glaucoma, medication (eye drops) are the mainstay of the treatment. If your doctor has prescribed medication, never change or stop taking them without talking to your ophthalmologist. 

In cases of narrow angle glaucoma, Laser surgery (Iridotomy ) is usually helpful in preventing acute attack. In select cases, glaucoma surgery (Trabeculectomy, drainage device etc.) may have to be done to prevent further loss of vision.

What to do if you have glaucoma?

Treating glaucoma successfully is a team effort between you and your doctor. Your ophthalmologist will prescribe your glaucoma treatment. It is up to you to follow your doctor’s instructions and use your eye drops.

Once you are taking medications for glaucoma, you must visit your ophthalmologist regularly as advised by him.

Glaucoma has no symptoms in its early stages. In fact, half the people with glaucoma do not know they have it! Therefore it is important to have regular eye exams, especially if you have any of the mentioned risk factors, so that the disease is detected early. Glaucoma damage is permanent—it cannot be reversed. But medicine and surgery help to stop further damage. 

Eyes are precious. Take care of them. 

(Dr. Poonam Jain, MS, Senior Consultant Ophthalmology, Medical Director, Namokar Eye & Oculoplasty Centre, Ashok Vihar, Delhi)

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