Glaucoma refers to a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve and may cause vision loss. Optic nerve damage in glaucoma is primarily due to elevated Intra-Ocular Pressure (IOP) within the eye. Glaucoma can cause total permanent blindness within a few years if damage to the optic nerve from high eye pressure continues.

The elderly, African-Americans and people with family histories of the disease are at greater risk. There are no symptoms in the early stages and by the time the patient notices vision changes, visual loss due to glaucoma can only be halted, not reversed. Glaucoma is usually treated with eye drops, although lasers and surgery can also be used. Most cases can be controlled well with these treatments, thereby preventing further loss of vision. Early diagnosis and treatment is the key to preserving sight in people with glaucoma.

DIFFERENT TYPES OF GLAUCOMA

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Open-angle glaucoma or Wide-Angle Glaucoma

This is the most common type in which the structures of the eye appear normal, but fluid in the eye does not flow properly through the drain of the eye called the trabecular meshwork.

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Angle-closure glaucoma or Acute / Narrow-Angle Glaucoma

This type is less common but can cause a sudden buildup of pressure in the eye. Drainage may be poor because the angle between the iris and the cornea (where a drainage channel for the eye is located) is too narrow.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF GLAUCOMA

Intraocular pressure can sometimes rise to severe level. In these cases, sudden eye pain, headache, blurred vision, or the appearance of halos around lights may occur. One should immediately seek medical advice if experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Seeing halos around lights
  • Vision loss
  • Redness in the eye
  • Eye that looks hazy (in infants)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Pain in the eye
  • Narrowing of vision (tunnel vision)

TREATMENT FOR GLAUCOMA

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Eye drops

These either reduce the formation of fluid in the eye or increase its outflow. Side-effects of glaucoma drops may include allergy, redness of the eyes, brief stinging, blurred vision, and irritated eyes.

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Laser surgery

This slightly increases the outflow of the fluid from the eye in open-angle glaucoma or eliminates fluid blockage in angle-closure glaucoma. Types of laser surgery for glaucoma include

  • Trabeculoplasty, in which a laser is used to pull open the trabecular meshwork drainage area
  • Iridotomy, in which a tiny hole is made in the iris, allowing the fluid to flow more freely
  • Cyclophotocoagulation, in which a laser beam treats areas of the middle layer of the eye, reducing the production of fluid
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Microsurgery

In trabeculectomy procedure, a new channel is created to drain the fluid, thereby reducing intraocular pressure that causes glaucoma. Complications of microsurgery for glaucoma include some temporary loss of vision, as well as bleeding or infection.

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