What is Glaucoma (an eye disease)? Glaucoma is a chronic progressive combination of ocular disorders. If left untreated, it damages the optic nerve (the nerve that carries signals from the eye to the brain). It is essentially a silent disease that causes an impact on the eyes by first affecting the peripheral vision. What are the symptoms of glaucoma? Other than acute onset and secondary glaucomas which may present with high pressures, pain and blurring of vision, the vast majority of patients suffering from glaucoma do not experience any symptoms. This is important because patients may have a silent visual loss for many years before it becomes evident. As per research issued in The American Journal of the Medical Sciences, the most common visible symptoms reported by patients with glaucoma need more light.
What are the causes of glaucoma?
"Majority of the patients who suffer from glaucoma do not have an identifiable cause and are called Primary glaucomas. Genetics plays a substantial role – having a parent or sibling with Glaucoma increases the risk of developing Glaucoma. Steroid treatment in any form ( even skin creams and inhalers) may increase the risk of glaucoma. Congenital glaucoma may affect infants and needs to be treated as an emergency. Intraocular inflammation, infections and eye injuries may also cause secondary glaucomas. Complications of uncontrolled Diabetes, Hypertension and atherosclerotic changes may also cause glaucoma" says Dr Samyak V. Mulkutkar, Consultant - Vitreo-Retinal Surgeon & Uveitis Specialist, P.D Hinduja Hospital & MRC.
What are the types of glaucoma?
The types of presentations that rule out glaucoma:
Like mentioned that it is essentially a silent disease. Patients cannot detect glaucomas. They are typically diagnosed when the patient comes for a routine check-up. A typical presentation can be when the eyes' pressure, i.e., the intraocular pressure will be high, or the optic disc during periodic evaluation suggests glaucoma features. Another assessment can be done when the patient has a painful eye and a sudden blurring of vision and pain. This is a rare presentation that can also be one of the symptoms causing glaucoma.
What is the diagnosis of glaucoma?
An Ophthalmologist establishes a glaucoma diagnosis by performing a detailed eye examination which will involve examining the Optic Nerve and checking the Intra Ocular Pressure ( IOP). Investigations like Visual fields, RNFL OCT, Optic Nerve Imaging and Pachymetry may also be performed to establish the diagnosis and monitor progression and response to treatment.
Glaucoma: When should one seek medical advice?
Dr Ashwin Santosh Shetty, Consultant – Ophthalmology, Aster CMI Hospital states that "glaucoma causes asymptomatic visual loss in most patients! Hence, a routine check-up of the vision is recommended to patients once a year, helping pick up specific eye vision changes. But, if one has a family history of glaucoma, then they should certainly get checked at least once a year so that the doctor can check for signs of glaucoma. Alongside if an individual faces any visual problem daily, they shouldn't hesitate and immediately evaluate themselves."
Also Read: Foods you should eat to reduce glaucoma risk
How to get rid of Glaucoma: Medications and Remedies?
Glaucoma is treatable, not curable. Once diagnosed, the treatment is for life, similar to Diabetes and Hypertension. It is not feasible to modify the damage caused by glaucoma. But regular check-ups and treatment can save one from the gradual loss of vision, especially if the disease is diagnosed early. Depending on the assessment, various treatment options are available, oral medications, prescription eye drops, surgery, laser treatment, or a combination of any of these. Prescription eyedrop medications include Prostaglandins, Beta-blockers, Alpha-adrenergic agonists and a few others taken on the advice of a doctor. The most crucial parameter to treat glaucoma is by using eye drops, which lowers the intraocular pressure usually elevated in a patient with glaucoma. Very rarely, and even in severe glaucoma patients, the eye drops don't work optimally. Then we will need to go ahead with surgery for glaucoma control.
Risk factors of Glaucoma explained by Dr Ashwin Santosh Shetty
Glaucoma typically affects adults over 40, although it can also afflict young adults, children, and even infants. Typically, African American people are the most impacted among global populations when they're younger, and may lead to vision loss. People can also get it if there is a family history of glaucoma, near-sighted or farsighted vision or low vision and diabetes.
How can one prevent Glaucoma? Explains Dr Samyak V. Mulkutkar
You may not be able to anticipate glaucoma, but you can reduce the risk of damaging your eyes if you detect it early. Some measures may help protect your vision like having regular eye exams. If your doctor spots signs of Glaucoma early, treatment can be initiated quickly. It is advisable to check for Glaucoma in adults every 3 to 5 years, learn your family history, follow your doctor’s instructions, exercise, and protect your eyes.
Glaucoma: Here are some points to remember
- Glaucoma requires continual follow-up with the eye doctor as it is a life long condition. You need to do some things to keep eye pressure in check and your eyes healthy like regular exercise, eating healthy dark, leafy greens and fish with omega-3 fatty acids, taking your medicine regularly, not smoking and watching caffeine intake. This is a life-long routine that you need to need to undertake if you have Glaucoma.
- The most crucial advice to readers here is that if a patient has started with glaucoma medication, they should not stop unless advised by an ophthalmologist. Please continue to check up the eyes for eye pressure and visual field level at least once in 6 months or once a year as recommended by the eye doctor.
- It is possible to have Glaucoma and live completely everyday life. However, early detection and appropriate management can prevent visual loss during a patients lifetime.
FAQs related to glaucoma answered by Dr Ashwin Santosh Shetty
- How does it feel to be living with Glaucoma? In the early stages of glaucoma, most patients will not have any visible symptoms. But as glaucoma progresses, the peripheral visual field will start decreasing. E.g., While crossing the road, an individual might not see cars and vehicles coming from the edge of the eye. So the peripheral vision will start blurring. This is the first impact that can happen while a patient is infected with glaucoma.
- Do medications cause glaucoma? Some medicines can cause glaucomas such as steroids in any form, drugs for bladder control or seizures, or some over-the-counter cold remedies. It is necessary to remember that you have to consult a medical professional about side-effects of some medicines you may be taking for other medical problems.
- What is the connection between Diabetes and Glaucoma? Uncontrolled diabetes may lead to glaucoma. Diabetic retinopathy, which results from diabetes, can damage the retina's blood vessels. This will lead to abnormal blood vessels' growth in the eye that can block the eye's natural drainage system and lead to glaucoma.
- What foods to avoid and eat if you have glaucoma? Avoid a high trans fatty acid diet as its consumption can damage the optic nerve. Consumption of baked goods such as cakes, doughnuts, cookies, fried items like stick margarine or French fries to steer clear from worsening your glaucoma.
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