Glaucoma is a condition that develops when your optic nerve, which is located at the back of your eye, is damaged. The optic nerve can be damaged when the pressure in your eye increases, which can happen when fluid in the front of your eye stops draining efficiently. Glaucoma can lead to partial or complete loss of vision, so here's what you need to know about this condition:
There's not always an identifiable cause of glaucoma, but it can be caused by the following:
- Genetic predisposition
- Eye injury or infection
- Corticosteroid use
- Diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to abnormal blood vessel growth and increased pressure in the eye
You may not notice any symptoms of glaucoma until it has already damaged your sight, which is why regular eye tests are vital for protecting your vision. When you do experience symptoms, they can include:
- Blurred vision or visual disturbances
- Nausea or vomiting
- Whites of the eyes develop red patches
There are a few methods your optometrist can use to establish if you have glaucoma. They can use a light with a magnifier to examine the back of your eye and take photos of the area where your optic nerve exits your eye. This can be useful for identifying optic nerve damage and they can use photos from your last eye examination to determine if your eyes have deteriorated between tests.
The pressure in your eyes can also be measured using a warm puff of air, which is directed at your open eye. This test, known as a tonometry test, measures eye pressure by monitoring how light reflections in your eyes change each time a puff of air hits them.
Changes in your periphery vision can also indicate glaucoma as your periphery vision tends to be affected first when you develop the condition. The test involves looking at a screen and pressing a button each time you see a flashing light in your peripheral vision. The light moves around during the test to measure how much of your peripheral vision is affected.
The aim of treatment is to prevent further damage to your sight by reducing the pressure in your eyes. You may be offered eye drops that help release trapped fluid and reduce the amount of fluid produced in your eyes. Before using any type of eye drops, ensure the prescriber is aware of any other medications you take as some eye drops can negatively interact with other medications such as beta-blockers.
Laser therapy can also be used to release trapped fluid in your eyes. A tiny beam of light is used to burn away the cells that are preventing the fluid in your eye from draining, and the procedure is relatively painless.
If eye drops and laser treatment have not been effective, you may be offered surgery to alter the way the fluid in your eyes drain. The surgery involves creating a tiny channel in your eye that bypasses the area of your eye that isn't draining efficiently. You should be aware that this procedure does have to be repeated at times as scar tissue can block the surgically created drainage channel, so discuss the pros and cons with your ophthalmologist before consenting to treatment.
Early diagnosis and strict adherence to your treatment regimen can prevent loss of sight and halt the deterioration of your eyes. Look after your sight by having regular eye exams, and schedule an urgent appointment if you experience any of the listed symptoms of glaucoma.