Glaucoma

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a build up of pressure within the eye that causes damage to the optic nerve. There is a small space in the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. Clear liquid flows in and out of the anterior chamber, this fluid nourishes and bathes nearby tissues. If a patient has glaucoma, the fluid drains too slowly out of the eye. This leads to fluid build-up, and pressure inside the eye rises


Unless this pressure is brought down and controlled, the optic nerve and other parts of the eye may become damaged, leading to loss of vision. The disease usually affects both eyes, although one may be more severely affected than the other.

Symptoms

  • Peripheral vision is gradually lost. This nearly always affects both eyes.
  • In advanced stages, the patient has tunnel vision.
  • Symptoms of closed angle glaucoma
  • Eye pain, usually severe.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Eye pain is often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting.
  • Lights appear to have extra halo-like glows around them.
  • Red eyes.


Treatment

  • Medication
  • Surgery
    • Trabeculoplasty - a laser beam is used to unblock clogged drainage canals, making it easier for the fluid inside the eye to drain out.
    • Filtering surgery (viscocanalostomy) - this may be carried out if nothing else works, including laser surgery. Channels within the eye are opened up to improve fluid drainage.
    • Drainage implant (aqueous shunt implant) - this option is sometimes used for children or those with secondary glaucoma. A small silicone tube is inserted into the eye to help it drain out fluids better.

Causes

Experts are unsure of the precise causes of glaucoma, but cases are divided into two categories:

  • Primary glaucoma - this means that the cause is unknown.
  • Secondary glaucoma - the condition has a known cause, such as a tumor, diabetes, an advanced cataract, or inflammation.

    There are several risk factors for glaucoma:
    • Old age.
    • Ethnic background - East Asians, African Americans, and those of Hispanic descent have a higher risk of developing glaucoma, compared with Caucasians.
    • Some illnesses and conditions - like diabetes or hypothyroidism.
    • Eye injuries or conditions.
    • Eye surgery.
    • Myopia (nearsightedness).
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