Glaucoma is an eye condition that impacts the optic nerve. Within the eye you’ll find aqueous humour, a type of fluid. This fluid flows in and drains back out of the eyes, however a problem occurs when the liquid doesn’t drain away. When the aqueous humour starts to build it can create pressure. This added pressure damages the eye and if left to progress, it can cause blindness by damaging the optic nerve.
What are the Risk Factors of Glaucoma?
There are some risk factors that can make you more likely to develop glaucoma:
- Hypertension/high blood pressure
- Family history of glaucoma
- Being a woman
- Being over the age of 40
- Taking steroid medication
What Types of Glaucoma are There?
Glaucoma is caused by abnormal development or injury to the eyes. There are several different types of glaucoma, and the type you have will determine the course of treatment that you’ll need.
- Childhood glaucoma – surgery will be used to correct this.
- Primary angle closure glaucoma – this will require urgent medical treatment in a hospital. Medicine will be used to reduce pressure in the eye and laser treatment will follow.
- Secondary glaucoma – different treatments are available for this depending on the cause of the condition. Typically, eye drops, laser treatment or surgery are used.
You’ll also be advised to attend regular follow-up appointments to monitor your eyes and check that treatment is working. It’s important not to miss any of these appointments.
Does Glaucoma Have any Symptoms?
Glaucoma doesn’t always have symptoms in the early stages, which is why it’s so vital to have your routine eye tests as these types of conditions can be detected and treated during these assessments. Glaucoma tends to develop slowly over many years, although it is possible for the condition to develop rapidly (this is called acute glaucoma and is rare).
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
Glaucoma is usually discovered during a routine eye test. The condition will be diagnosed through the following methods:
Using an eye test chart to assess your ability to read at a distance.
Peripheral Vision Field
This test measures a child’s side (peripheral) vision. A loss of peripheral vision can indicate that the child has glaucoma.
A standard test to determine the fluid pressure inside the eye.
Eye drops are put into the eyes which cause the pupil to widen. This allows the eye care professionals to perform an examination of the eye’s retina/optic nerve.
Your eye care professional will conduct a thorough eye examination. They will measure your intraocular pressure, they’ll also measure how thick the cornea is, review the drainage angle and check for signs of optic nerve damage and/or vision loss.
How is Glaucoma Treated?
It is most common to treat this condition using prescription eye drops that are designed to reduce fluid in the eyes. The eye drops may be used several times a day, but they should always be used as directed by your optician/doctor. You can learn more about eye drops for dry eyes by reading this article.
Sometimes oral medication may be prescribed alongside eye drops to help reduce the pressure in your eyes.
It’s also important to keep using the eye drops for as long as you are directed to. The eye drops should not change your vision or make your eyes feel any differently (unless you experience some side effects) but rest assured that the drops are preventing your vision from getting worse.
Laser treatment is another option. If eye drops fail to reduce the pressure in your eyes, laser treatment may be recommended.
What Types of Surgery Treat Glaucoma?
Surgery is usually the course of action if eyedrops or laser don’t work, although failure of both methods is highly unusual. However, if necessary, it is likely that your eyecare specialist will refer you for:
Viscocanalostomy – part of the sclera (the white outer part of the eye) is removed.
Trabeculotomy – this type of surgery uses an electric current to remove a small part of the eye-drainage tubes.
Deep sclerectomy – the tubes that drain away fluid in the eye are made wider to aid drainage.
Trabecular stent bypass – a tube is put into your eye to aid drainage.
Post-surgery, your eyes might become red, irritated and/or watery. You also might experience blurry vision. While these symptoms are temporary, activities like driving and operating machinery should be temporarily stopped during the period that these symptoms are present. Your doctor and/or optician will tell you exactly how to care for your eyes as they heal from surgery.
How can I Prevent Intraocular Pressure?
If you have one or more of the risk factors for this condition, there might not be much you can do to avoid developing it. However with some healthy lifestyle choices you can at least try to minimise your risk. Eat a balanced diet full of colourful vegetables/fruits and low in highly processed/sugary foods. The different colours indicate different nutrients, so it’s best to get as many different coloured foods in as possible to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need. Taking measures to lower your overall stress levels will also help reduce your blood pressure as well as your eye pressure.