Glaucoma-risk, symptoms, and causes

Is Glaucoma Stealing Your Sight? Know Your Risk & Protect Your Vision

What is glaucoma?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in gradual vision loss, causing blindness over time. It is a group of eye conditions in which the optic nerves are damaged. Prolonging optic nerve damage impacts vision transmission and, if left untreated, can drain the system and function of the whole eye.

As per the records, the prevalence of glaucoma is 0.74%. There are about 80 million live patients, and glaucoma awareness is missing in 50% of those eye infections. Glaucoma in Nepali is known as jalbindu, followed by vision loss.

What causes glaucoma?

The risk factors for glaucoma are too many to name, as it is not a single eye condition. To begin with, increased eye pressure (intraocular pressure) is seen to be a prominent cause. Let’s dig more into the potential causes of glaucoma.

1. Elevated eye pressure

Normal eye pressure falls within the range of 12–21 mmHg. But if the fluid builds up in the eyes, then the ocular pressure is felt on the optic nerve, leading to eye damage and glaucoma. Early detection and vision loss prevention are essential before the ability to transmit visual information to the brain is hindered.

2. Blocked drainage system

It is caused when the eye drainage system is blocked. Regular eye exams help to determine any early signs of optic nerve damage. If the drainage angle is blocked, two major types of glaucoma are caused:

  • Open-angle glaucoma

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common type of this eye disease.  Eye pain in this type is relatively less. Unlike other cases, the drainage angle in the eye remains open in open-angle glaucoma.

However, the trabecular meshwork, which is responsible for draining fluid from the eye, becomes clogged, resulting in poor drainage. This prolonged eye condition is an increased risk factor for glaucoma.

  • Angle-closure (Closed-angle glaucoma)

Angle-closure glaucoma is dramatic and has a fast-progressing risk of blindness. In this vision-threatening condition, there is an acute attack and a true emergency, as you can experience eye blurriness.

Closed-angle glaucoma is chronic, and only when the damage is severe do symptoms start to show in this condition. Even severe eye pain, headaches, and dizziness can be caused by glaucoma.

3. Diabetes

Diabetes has been the most prominent cause of eye problems, as it increases the risk of developing neovascular and primary open-angle glaucoma. In contrast, it has not been a direct cause of all other types.

Diabetic retinopathy damages the eyes by resulting in the abnormal growth of blood vessels outside the retina. This is how diabetes causes glaucoma by hindering the drainage angle of the eye. Various mechanisms by which diabetes increases the risk are mentioned below:

  • Oxidative stress
  • Inflammation within the eye
  • Fluid imbalances
  • Elevated eye pressure

This actively demonstrates that high blood sugar is connected to glaucoma. However, not everyone with diabetes encounters glaucoma in their life. Early detection of diabetes and glaucoma helps you analyze the risk factors and protect your vision.

4. Hereditary

Glaucoma can be hereditary, but the extent of the risk can vary based on family history, the specific type, and another responsible factor. Having a close relative with glaucoma( parent, sibling, or child) does signify that you have an increased risk of glaucoma exposure.

Experts in glaucoma research have been potentially researching how glaucoma inheritance is carried on by specific genes. Angle closure is one of those that can suggest a higher risk of genetic influence, but this cannot be guaranteed.

5. Eye injuries

Studies suggest that up to 20% of blunt eye injuries lead to secondary glaucoma. The particular reason for the eye condition can be trabecular meshwork disruption and impaired aqueous humor outflow.

6. Age

There is an increased chance of developing glaucoma as you age. It is not a direct cause, but the report shows age impacts glaucoma development by reducing drainage of eye fluid and intraocular pressure.

Even the lens naturally thickens with age, and vascular changes like reduced blood flow to the eye nerve make it susceptible to glaucoma. Age issues are seen as more prominent among African Americans and Hispanics. Regular eye exams in your 40s can save you from losing your eyesight.

What are the symptoms of glaucoma?

The symptoms of glaucoma can vary depending on the stage and condition of the disease. It can go unnoticed for years, but you can see how it affects your central vision with signs and symptoms.

  • Tunnel vision
  • Blurry vision
  • Gradual loss of peripheral vision
  • Sudden and severe eye pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Redness of the eye
  • Rainbow halos around lights

Can glaucoma be cured?

Unfortunately, glaucoma is considered untreatable to date. But there are ways you can prevent further vision loss as a glaucoma patient. The damage to the optic nerve is irreversible, as the fibers cannot be regenerated.

There are prospects for treatment, but the universal cure is yet to be identified. Ongoing research shows new treatments can potentially cure glaucoma, so let’s know about them.

  • Neuroprotective therapies
  • Gene therapy
  • Stem cell therapy
  • Glaucoma surgery

A look into Common types of glaucoma surgery

Glaucoma is a chronic eye disease, but it can be managed with medications and laser treatment. If you have severe damage to the optic nerve, an eye specialist might recommend either of these types of surgery.

Choosing the right type of surgery depends on the type and severity of glaucoma. Individual health, medical history, and patient lifestyle are also factors to consider when deciding the right type of surgery for your eyes.

1. Trabeculectomy

A trabeculectomy is an eye surgery performed for glaucoma. Surgeons operate to create a new pathway for draining your eye fluid. It is a kind of eye filtration surgery, which makes it easier for the patient to create small openings in the sclera and reduce hypertension in the eyes.

2. Tube shunt surgery

Tube shunt surgery is a drainage implant surgery. A tiny tube with a one-way valve is inserted as a reservoir under the conjunctiva. It creates an alternative path for aqueous humor. It effectively maintains IOP control, and the tube-shunt implant lasts for about 10 years.

3. Laser trabeculoplasty (SLT)

Laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) is an invasive procedure to remove clogged drainage channels in the eyes. It uses low-energy pulses of light and stimulates a network of trabecular meshwork responsible for draining fluid in the eye.

4. Cyclophotocoagulation

Cyclophotocoagulation is a laser procedure in the eye to destroy tissues in the ciliary body. It is the part of the eye that produces fluid in the eye. Side effects of CPC can include developing cataracts and reduced vision.

Risk and complications of glaucoma surgery

Glaucoma surgery has rare risks and complications. The most invasive procedures and treatment planning result in less common side effects, like,

  • Eye infection

Eye infection can be really painful. First of all check if you have redness, simply pain, vision changes, or discharges in your eyes. Consult with the eye doctor on how long have you been having this symptom, and seek eye drops or medication as soon as possible.

  • Bleeding

Bleeding can be another risk and side effect associated with eye surgery. Subconjunctival hemorrhage, hyphema, and vitreous hemorrhage can be some bleeding eye condition after surgery. Check if you are experiencing any of those.

  • Cataracts

After performing trabeculectomy, there is an increased risk of developing cataracts. Chances of eye lens damage are seen when surgery alters the natural flow of aqueous humor in the eyes.

  • High eye pressure

Scarring, inflammation, and blood cuts can be underlying symptoms that result in high eye pressure. It can be a common side effect associated with the surgery of glaucoma.

  • Vision loss

In extreme conditions, when the repercussion of surgery plays out there are some rare chances of vision loss.  Inflammation, swelling, and corneal abrasion can be certain temporary causes of blurry vision after surgery. But in rare cases, hypotony, choroidal detachment, macular damage, and progressive glaucoma can lead to vision loss, if not fully controlled by the surgery.

Conclusion

Glaucoma can be threatening to your vision in the long run if left untreated. So, don’t let it silently steal your sight; be aware of the risk factors and warning signs. Routine eye examinations and timely action can keep your vision bright.

To sum up everything that has been stated so far, continue your daily eye care routine and maintain optimal eye health. Embrace healthy habits and take control of your vision health.

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