Glaucoma consist of a group of varied eye disorders, in which there is damage to the optic nerve due to increase in eye pressure. It is a disease which does not have any symptoms in until the advanced stages, and can causes irreversible vision loss. Glaucoma is therefore a dreaded disease. However, a diagnosis of glaucoma should not scare you since glaucoma can be controlled with timely treatment.
What causes loss of vision in glaucoma?
Loss of vision due to glaucoma starts from the periphery, due to loss of nerve fibers in the optic nerve which conduct the vision stimulus from the eye to the brain. If diagnosed early, this damage can easily be controlled with timely treatment.
Blindness due to glaucoma can happen for two reasons:
Delayed diagnosis: sometimes, the disease is not diagnosed till very advanced stages, when vision loss has already happened. In such a situation, vision loss may not be reversed completely. However, timely and appropriate treatment means that further vision loss due to glaucoma can be controlled. An annual comprehensive eye examination is therefore very important for early diagnosis of glaucoma.
Improper treatment: When the treatment for glaucoma is not appropriate, or when patients forget to use the medication as prescribed, vision loss due to glaucoma continues to progress. In fact, you must follow your doctor’s instructions strictly, even if you have no symptoms, so as to control vision loss due to glaucoma.
What are the risk factors for glaucoma?
All of us are at risk for glaucoma, however, the significant risk factors associated with glaucoma are the following:
High intraocular or eye pressure (IOP)
Age 60 or above
African or Hispanic ancestry; Indians and South East Asians are more prone to angle closure glaucoma
Family history of glaucoma
Optic nerve appearance (increased cup-disc ratio)
High Myopia or hypermetropia
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What are the treatment options for glaucoma control?
As explained above, glaucoma progression and blindness can be adequately controlled by proper treatment. The treatment options include:
Eye drops: Primary open angle glaucoma can be very adequately controlled with the use of eye drops in most cases. However, one must remember that these drops must not be missed, and are to be used lifelong.
Laser for glaucoma: Angle closure glaucoma needs a laser procedure called laser peripheral iridotomy, which restores the circulation of fluid inside the eye. Another laser procedure called selective laser trabeculoplasty is used in open angle glaucoma for eye pressure control.
Surgery for glaucoma: Some patients require surgery for the control of glaucoma. This surgery can be trabeculectomy, non-penetrating glaucoma surgery or Ahmed Glaucoma Valve (AGV) implantation.
Verdict: Timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to glaucoma prevention
While glaucoma itself cannot be prevented, blindness or significant vision loss from glaucoma can be prevented if the disease is recognized in the early stages. In fact, all kinds of glaucomas can be controlled with timely treatment.
Regular, annual comprehensive eye exams are important to safeguard your vision against glaucoma and other eye diseases.
You must follow your doctor’s advice about the need for glaucoma investigations, and get the tests done on time.
In case diagnosed with glaucoma, you must strictly adhere to the treatment prescribed. If advised surgery for glaucoma, you must discuss its risks and benefits with your eye doctor.
Do not despair, because glaucoma can be controlled adequately with timely treatment.