Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, which transmits images to the brain and is the second leading cause of blindness. The eye produces a watery fluid called aqueous humour. This fluid regulates the pressure in your eyes. If the fluid cannot drain properly or the drainage channels are blocked, the pressure within your eye will become too much. In some cases, poor blood flow can also cause damage to the optic nerve, resulting in glaucoma.
It is important to know that there are no symptoms in the early stages of Glaucoma but it can be detected during a routine eye test. It is often referred to as the “sneak thief of sight” for this exact reason. Your optic nerve can be up to 40% damaged before you even notice any loss of vision. Early detection is vital. Any damage caused is irreversible, however, if caught early enough, the condition can be managed and any further damage can be prevented.
Major risk factors include being over the age of 45, diabetes, nearsightedness, farsightedness, history of injury to the eye and family history of glaucoma.
Types of Glaucoma Primary open – angle glaucoma
This is by far the most common form of Glaucoma. Moreover, its frequency increases greatly with age. The drainage canals become clogged over time causing internal pressure within the eye. The resulting loss of vision starts peripherally, which most people do not notice until the loss encroaches on their central visual area.
Angle – closure glaucoma
In contrast to open – angle glaucoma, angle closure glaucoma symptoms are very noticeable and damage occurs rapidly. This is a relatively uncommon type of glaucoma, which causes pain, blurring of vision, headaches, nausea and sudden sight loss. People have also reported to seeing halos around lights. This condition tends to occur over 24 – 48 hours due to a very rapid rise in eye pressure. If treated early enough, angle – closure glaucoma can be reversed and prevent long term damage.
Normal – Tension Glaucoma
Also known as low – tension or normal – pressure glaucoma, the optic nerve is damaged even though the pressure in the eye is not very high. In contrast to open – angle glaucoma, not much is known about this form of the disease. For some reason, the optic nerve is susceptible to damage from normal eye pressure.
Because this form of glaucoma is not well understood, there are different tests done by optometrists to diagnose the disease, whether it is by using an ophthalmoscope or doing a visual field test. Normal tension glaucoma is usually treated by reducing the eye pressure as low as possible using medications, laser treatment or conventional surgery. 20% of glaucoma patients suffer from this form of the disease.
If you are over the age of 45, it is crucial that you visit the eye clinic once a year to make sure your eyes are still healthy. There is a reason why Glaucoma is also known as the “sneak thief of sight”, your optic nerve could be damaged at the moment and you wouldn't know about it. Rather play it safe and remember, if found early enough, glaucoma is treatable.