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WHAT IS IT?
Glaucoma is an eye disease that can damage your optic nerve and cause loss of vision (sight). Although it can happen quickly, glaucoma more commonly steals a person's vision slowly over time. Some people do not know they have glaucoma until they begin to lose their side vision. Many people do not even know they have glaucoma until they have their eyes checked by an eye doctor. Glaucoma is a disease you will have for the rest of your life. You can have it in one or both of your eyes. There is no cure for glaucoma, but it can be controlled with medicine or surgery. Without treatment, you can lose some or all of your vision.
DAMAGE TO THE EYES?
A clear fluid flows through the eye all the time to keep it moist (wet) and healthy. As new fluid is made, old fluid flows out of the eye through the trabecular meshwork. The trabecular meshwork is a tiny drain system located where the iris and the cornea join together. With glaucoma, the drain system becomes blocked or clogged. Like a sink drain, clogging causes the old eye fluid to drain too slowly or not drain at all. Fluid builds up and increases pressure in the back of the eye. When the fluid pushes too hard against the optic nerve, the nerve becomes damaged. The optic nerve is the nerve of sight, which sends messages to your brain. When the messages reach the brain, you are able to understand what you are seeing. When the optic nerve is damaged, you may lose parts of your vision or you may become blind.
HIGH EYE PRESSURE:
Is glaucoma always caused by high eye pressure? No. People with normal eye pressure can have glaucoma, too. Doctors have found that some people have damage because even a normal eye pressure is too high for their eyes. When a person with normal eye pressure has glaucoma, it is called "normal-tension" or "low-tension" glaucoma. If you have this glaucoma, your doctor will give you medicine to keep your eye pressure lower than it normally is. This will help to stop or slow down damage caused by normal eye pressure.
WHO IS AT HIGH RISK FOR HAVING GLAUCOMA?
1) Anyone over 60 years old;
2) African-Americans over 40 years old;
3) People who have a family member with glaucoma;
4) People who have diabetes or high blood pressure;
5) People who have had a severe (very bad) eye injury.
PRIMARY OPEN-ANGLE GLAUCOMA:
Most people have this type of glaucoma. Open-angle glaucoma is a slow forming type of glaucoma that is common in people as they get older. With open-angle glaucoma, your eye drain system may become clogged and drains fluid much too slowly. Fluid build-up causes your eye pressure to become too high and optic nerve damage to happen. There are usually no clear signs or symptoms until damage to the eye has already been done.
If glaucoma goes untreated, you can lose your side vision first. You may have blurred vision on one side toward your nose. You may have problems focusing on work that is close to your eyes. You may need to change your glasses prescriptions often. Poor night vision or blind spots in your vision are other late signs. At night, you may see rainbows or halos (circles) around lights as your glaucoma gets worse.
TYPES OF GLAUCOMA:
1) Angle-closure glaucoma
2) Secondary glaucoma
3) Congenital glaucoma
HOW IS GLAUCOMA DIAGNOSED?
You will need a complete eye examination by an eye doctor. One or more of the following may be done to learn about your glaucoma:
This test measures your eye pressure. Your eye pressure is also called "intraocular pressure" or "IOP". While you look ahead, air will be puffed or a special light will shine in your eyes to measure your eye pressure. For other types of tonometry tests, you may need eye drops that will numb your eyes for a short time. An instrument may be put on your eye to measure the eye pressure.
This is a special instrument used to look at your optic nerve. Your doctor will dim or turn off the lights in the room. While you look ahead, your doctor will shine a light into your eyes to see if you have any optic nerve damage. Your doctor may use special eye drops to dilate your eyes. Dilating your eyes causes the pupil (black dot in the middle of the eye) to become very wide. This helps your doctor have a better view of the inside of your eye.
Your doctor may do a test to look directly at your eye drain system. Your doctor may do a test and make a "map" of your side vision in both eyes. This will help your doctor learn if there are areas where you have lost your sight. Side vision is the first part of your vision that can be lost if you have glaucoma.
Glaucoma can be controlled and treated if it is found at an early stage. Finding and treating glaucoma early will decrease the chances of eye damage and loss of vision. If ophthalmologist find and treat glaucoma before damage has occurred, blindness can be prevented. If your entire optic nerve is already damaged, you may become blind. The following may be used to control your glaucoma:
Medicine may be given to you in eye drops or by pill. Medicines help to decrease your eye pressure in two ways. Some medicines decrease the amount of fluid your eye makes. Other medicines help your eye to drain fluid better. For the medicine to work, you must take it every day and exactly as directed by your doctor.
This surgery is usually done if medicines cannot control your glaucoma. During this surgery, your doctor will use a laser (light beam) to open your eye drain system if it is clogged. It may also be used to create a new opening for eye fluid drainage.
This surgery is usually done if medicines and laser surgery cannot control your glaucoma. Your doctor will use tiny surgical instruments to make a new drain system for your eye.
Once you have lost a part of your vision from glaucoma, you cannot get it back. Treatment with medicine or surgery is the only way to stop or slow down the damaging effects of glaucoma.
For more information, consult our ophthalmologist