Glaucoma: types, symptoms, causes and treatment

What Is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is progressive eye disease that can damage optic nerve. The optic nerve supplies visual information to brain from eyes. It is usually, but not always, the result of abnormally high pressure inside eye. Over time, the increased pressure can damage optic nerve tissue, which may lead to vision loss or even blindness.

Types:

Five major types are:

Congenital Glaucoma
Children born with congenital defect in the angle of their eye, which slows or prevents normal fluid drainage. It usually presents with symptoms, such as cloudy eyes, excessive tearing, or sensitivity to light.

Secondary Glaucoma
This type is due to injury or another eye condition, such as cataracts or eye tumors. Medicines, such as corticosteroids, may also cause this type. Rarely, eye surgery can cause this type.

Open-Angle (Chronic) Glaucoma
This type has no signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss. This loss may be so slow that your vision can suffer irreparable damage before any other signs become apparent. This is the most common type.

Angle-Closure (Acute) Glaucoma
If the flow of your aqueous humor fluid is suddenly blocked, the rapid buildup of fluid may cause a severe, quick, and painful increase in pressure. It is an emergency situation. You should call your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing symptoms, such as severe pain, nausea, and blurred vision.

Normal Tension Glaucoma
In some cases, people without increased eye pressure develop damage to their optic nerve. However, extreme sensitivity or a lack of blood flow to your optic nerve may be a factor in this type.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

The most common type of glaucoma is primary open-angle glaucoma. It has no signs or symptoms except gradual vision loss.

Acute-angle closure glaucoma is a medical emergency. See your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Severe eye pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Redness in your eye
  • Sudden vision disturbances
  • Seeing colored rings around lights
  • Blurred vision


Causes of Glaucoma:

The back of eye continuously makes a clear fluid called aqueous humor. As this fluid is made, it fills the front part of eye. Then, it leaves the eye through channels in cornea and iris. If these channels are blocked or partially obstructed, the natural pressure in your eye, which is called the intraocular pressure (IOP), may increase. As your IOP increases, optic nerve may become damaged. As damage to nerve progresses, vision can be lost.

How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

To diagnose glaucoma, ophthalmologist will perform a comprehensive eye examination. They’ll check for signs of deterioration, including loss of nerve tissue. They may also use one or more of the following tests and procedures:

Detailed Medical History
Doctor will know what symptoms you’ve been experiencing and if you have any personal or family history of glaucoma. They’ll also ask for a general health assessment to determine if any other health conditions may be impacting your eye health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Tonometry Test
This class of tests measures your eye’s internal pressure.

Pachymetry Test
A pachymetry test can tell your doctor if your corneas are thinner than average.

Perimetry Test
This test, also known as a visual field test, can tell your doctor if glaucoma is affecting your vision by measuring your peripheral, or side, vision and your central vision.

Optic Nerve Monitoring
If your doctor wants to monitor for gradual changes to your optic nerve, they may take photographs of your optic nerve to conduct a side-by-side comparison over time.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to reduce IOP to stop any additional eyesight loss.

Medications
Several medicines designed to reduce IOP are available. These medicines are available in the form of eye drops.

Surgery
If a blocked or slow channel is causing increased IOP, your doctor may suggest surgery to make a drainage path for fluid or destroy tissues that are responsible for the increased fluid.

Treatment for angle-closure glaucoma is different. This type of is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment to reduce eye pressure as quickly as possible. Medicines are usually attempted first, to reverse the angle closure, but this may be unsuccessful. A laser procedure called laser peripheral iridotomy may also be performed. This procedure creates small holes in your iris to allow for increased fluid movement.

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