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Glaucoma Awareness Month - Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

  • January 23, 2023

Glaucoma Awareness Month - Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis

Were you aware of the fact that most patients can experience the symptoms of glaucoma only after suffering 40% vision loss?

Glaucoma affects approximately 11.2 million Indians, with approximately 1.1 million of those affected being blind. Because the disease can affect siblings and children of glaucoma patients in up to 10-15% of cases, screening family members of glaucoma patients is essential. Early detection and treatment of the disease, which primarily affects people over the age of 40, are critical to preventing it. High myopes, diabetics, and those with a family history of glaucoma are more likely to develop the disease.

What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye condition that causes damage to the optic nerve. It deteriorates over time and it is frequently linked to an increase in intraocular pressure. Glaucoma frequently runs in families. It is most commonly acquired later in life. Increased intraocular pressure in the eye can harm the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain. If untreated, glaucoma can cause permanent vision loss or even total blindness within a few years. The majority of people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain. Regularly see your eye doctor so that glaucoma can be diagnosed and treated before you suffer long-term vision loss.

Causes of Glaucoma

Glaucoma develops when the optic nerve is injured. As this nerve starts to deteriorate, blind spots appear in your vision. For reasons that doctors do not fully understand, this nerve damage is usually associated with increased eye pressure. A build-up of fluid that flows through the inside of the eye causes elevated eye pressure. Aqueous humour is another name for this fluid. It usually drains through a tissue at the iris-cornea junction. The trabecular meshwork is another name for this tissue. Because it allows light to enter the eye, the cornea is essential for vision. Eye pressure can rise when the eye produces too much fluid or the drainage system fails, eventually leading to glaucoma.

Types of Glaucoma

Each type of glaucoma is different, but the majority of them have no early symptoms, so it's critical to get tested on a regular basis, especially if you're at higher risk.

Primary Glaucomas - Some types of glaucoma are caused by other medical conditions, but for some people, the doctor cannot find another cause. Primary glaucoma occurs when the doctor cannot find another cause.

Open-Angle Glaucoma/Chronic Glaucoma - Except for gradual vision loss, open-angle, or chronic, glaucoma has no signs or symptoms. This loss may be so gradual that irreversible damage to your vision occurs before any other symptoms appear. This is the most common type of glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI).

Angle-Closure Glaucoma/Acute Glaucoma - If the flow of your aqueous humour fluid is suddenly interrupted, the rapid accumulation of fluid may cause a severe, sudden, and painful increase in pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency. If you start experiencing symptoms like severe pain, nausea, or blurred vision, you should contact your doctor right away.

Congenital Glaucoma - Congenital glaucoma is caused by a defect in the angle of the eye, which slows or prevents normal fluid drainage. Congenital glaucoma typically manifests as symptoms such as cloudy eyes, excessive tearing, or light sensitivity. Congenital glaucoma can be inherited.

Secondary Glaucoma - Secondary glaucoma is frequently caused by an injury or another eye condition, such as cataracts or eye tumours. Corticosteroids, for example, can also cause this type of glaucoma. Secondary glaucoma can occur in rare cases as a result of eye surgery.

Normal Tension Glaucoma - In some cases, people who do not have high eye pressure develop optic nerve damage. The reason for this is unknown. Extreme sensitivity or a lack of blood flow to your optic nerve, on the other hand, may be a factor in this type of glaucoma.

Symptoms of Glaucoma

Because open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms, most people who suffer from it are unaware of the disease's presence in the early stages. When symptoms do appear, they are usually late in the disease's progression. Glaucoma is known as the "sneak thief of vision" because of this. The most common symptom is a loss of side vision, also known as peripheral vision. Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms are usually more noticeable and appear sooner. Damage can happen quickly. Seek medical attention right away if you experience any of the following symptoms:

Seeing halos around lights

Vision loss

Redness in your eye

Eye that looks hazy (particularly in infants)

Upset stomach or vomiting

Eye pain

How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

Your ophthalmologist will want to perform a thorough eye examination to diagnose glaucoma. They'll look for signs of deterioration, such as nerve tissue loss. They may also employ one or more of the tests and procedures listed below:

Medical History - Your doctor will want to know about your symptoms and whether you have a personal or family history of glaucoma. They'll also request a general health examination to see if you have any other health issues that are affecting your eye health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Tonometry Test - This type of test measures the internal pressure of your eye.

Pachymetry Test - People with thin corneas are more likely to develop glaucoma. If your corneas are thinner than average, a pachymetry test can tell your doctor the severity of glaucoma.

Perimetry Test - This test, also known as a visual field test, can tell your doctor if you have glaucoma by measuring your peripheral, or side, vision as well as your central vision.

Checking the Optic Nerve - If your doctor wants to observe the gradual changes in your optic nerve, they may take photographs of it to compare side by side over time.

Medical Disclaimer

Any medical information referred to in or through our blog is provided as information only and is not intended:

as medical diagnosis or treatment

to replace consultation with a qualified medical practitioner

The sooner your doctor detects glaucoma symptoms, the sooner treatment can begin. All adults should have their eyes checked for glaucoma every 3 to 5 years. If you're over 40 and have a family history of the disease, schedule an eye exam every 1 to 2 years. You may need to go more frequently if you have diabetes or are at risk of other eye diseases. Glaucoma cases are expected to increase by up to 53% by 2030, making early eye screening at your local healthcare centre an absolute necessity.