An Eye on Glaucoma

What is glaucoma?
The fluid within the eye is called aqueous humor. The pressure inside the eye (called the intraocular pressure) usually between 12 to 18 millimetres of mercury.
Glaucoma is an eye disease wherein this intraocular pressure rises above normal levels, slowly damaging the nerve fibres responsible for vision. Thereby there is a slow and insiduous deterioration in vision. This progrssive loss of vision is so slow, that many people are not aware of it at the onset. So it is imperative that one should check with his or her ophthalmologist to catch the disease early.

Glaucoma can only be controlled and never cured. What vision is lost cannot be regained, so beware.

Who are the people at risk?
Anyone above 40 years
Positive family history of glaucoma especially amongst siblings
Diabetic individuals
Persons with high plus or minus power glasses.

'Normal Optic Disc'

'Glaucomatous Optic Disc'

What are the symptoms?

              Progression of Field Loss

At first there are NO SYMPTOMS and vision remains normal. That is what makes this disease so dangerous. As the disease progresses, there is a gradual loss of vision from the periphery towards the centre. Ultimately blindness results.
Some of the associated symptoms are
Intermittent headache
Coloured haloes around lights
Frequent change in glass power prescription
Severe eye pain and headache if there is an acute increase in intraocular pressure.

How is glaucoma detected?
Vision testing to determine the quality of vision.
Intraocular pressure is measured using an applanation or air puff tonometer.
A detailed eye examination of the optic disc and the nerve fibre.
Computerized visual field test to analize the quantity of vision or vision loss.

Computerised Visual Field Analyser
Applanation Tonometry being performed

Can glaucoma be cured?
There is no cure for glaucoma. It can only be controlled and further damage be prevented.
Medications are the mainstay of glaucoma treatment. Newer and advanced eye drops have shown to be extremely effective in contolling the intraocular pressure. This has significantly reduced the need of lasers and surgery for glaucoma in the past decade. Medications have to be used lifelong, as in diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc.
Llaser treatment are usually reserved for patients in whom the eye pressure is not well contolled with eye drops.
Surgery is reseved for those a few in whom the glaucoma progresses to damage despite medications and lasers therapy.

Glaucoma is initially symptomless, so do not take chances. This disease requires life-long follow up with your ophthalmologist. There is no cure, only further damage can be prevented. Most glaucoma patients can continue to lead a normal life-style. Alertness and awareness are the key in preserving vision and preventing progressive vision loss in glaucoma.