World Glaucoma Week 2019
Glaucoma is a degenerative eye disease that afflicts as many as 100 million people worldwide. The goal of World Glaucoma Week is to raise awareness of this condition so that people can identify the disease in its early stages and prevent it from stealing their sight. Unfortunately, many people with glaucoma symptoms think that what is happening to them is an inevitable result of ageing and may think it is easily solvable with glasses or contact lenses. And so they do not seek treatment. But while most people’s vision does indeed deteriorate to some extent with age and glaucoma does typically strike people over 40, natural eyesight degradation and glaucoma are two different things.
Awareness: The Key to Effective Glaucoma Treatment
Too many people today wind up losing their eyesight to glaucoma simply because they don’t have enough information when they first start to experience symptoms. World Glaucoma Week seeks to reverse this trend by raising awareness of this preventable and treatable condition.
Glaucoma is an umbrella term given to a group of degenerative eye diseases that are characterized by the gradual deterioration of the optic nerve cells. The root cause of glaucoma is increased pressure on the optic nerve. As the optic nerve is the conduit for passing information from your eyes to your brain it is absolutely vital to proper eye function. If pressure on the optic nerve is allowed to build unchecked damage will reach a point that it becomes irreversible and many will wind up going completely blind as a result.
How Does Glaucoma Develop?
The eyeball requires a steady flow of fluid in order to maintain optimal performance. Glaucoma develops when there is a blockage in the supply of fluid to the eye. The exact reason why some people develop blockages in the eye remains elusive. But at this point, the “why” is not as important as the “what”. As in; “What can be done to prevent the condition from leading to blindness?” While glaucoma can happen to virtually anyone at any age some are definitely more at risk than others. Those most at risk appear to be:
- People over 40.
- Those with a family history of glaucoma.
- People who suffer from diabetes.
- People of African descent.
- Those of Central American descent.
What are the Different Types of Glaucoma?
It is possible to have glaucoma for some time without being aware of it. As we said at the opening of this piece many people have symptoms of glaucoma but believe it to be nothing more than an inevitable result of ageing. It’s not.
There are two primary categories for glaucoma. They are:
- Chronic glaucoma - Chronic glaucoma is the more common form of the disease. It can be effectively treated if it is caught early enough in its progression. However, many people do not realize anything is wrong until substantial damage has already been done to their optic nerve. And by then it may be too late.
- Acute glaucoma - Acute glaucoma is not nearly as common as chronic glaucoma, but in many ways, it is more dangerous. Principally because it comes on fast and can cause irreversible damage in relatively short order if it is not effectively treated.
What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
With chronic glaucoma, there are often few if any symptoms at first. In time people will begin to suffer eye pain, headaches and blurred vision. Changes and symptoms can develop so slowly that people think it is normal. Most don’t realize something is seriously amiss until one day they realize their field of vision has decreased.
With acute glaucoma symptoms typically come on fairly quickly and may include severe headaches and eye pain, blurry vision, chronic eye redness, a halo effect around lights as well as nausea and vomiting.
How is Glaucoma Diagnosed?
The best way to prevent glaucoma from robbing you of your sight is to have your eyes checked on an annual basis. Glaucoma can be easily detected by your eye care professional and, if caught early enough, can be effectively treated. The most common methods the eye doctor will employ to detect glaucoma are:
- Measuring eye pressure - An eye pressure test usually takes under a minute and is completely painless. In order for your eye doctor to be certain of a glaucoma diagnosis, they will need to measure your eye pressure at different times of the day.
- Gonioscopy - During gonioscopy an instrument is fitted over a person’s cornea that is connected to a system which allows the ophthalmologist to view the interior of the eye. The eye doctor is looking, in particular, to see if there is any blockage where fluids normally drain. Anaesthetic drops are often administered in order to stave off any discomfort from the procedure.
- Field of view examination - During this test - often called “perimetry” - the doctor checks to see if the person has suffered any loss of peripheral vision. This is done by creating a series of bright dots, some of which will only be visible via peripheral vision. If the person is unable to detect these peripheral dots it may indicate glaucoma.
Treatment of glaucoma will vary depending on how far it has developed prior to diagnosis. Eye drops are often provided which help reduce eye pressure. Others may be given prescription medications which are also designed to relieve pressure on the optic nerve. While in some more severe cases surgery may be prescribed in order to try and reopen clogged drains within the eye.
Awareness of glaucoma should not be confined to World Glaucoma Week. If you haven’t had an eye exam yet this year schedule one now with your eye care professional.