Glaucoma: The Silent Thief of Sight

Glaucoma

A condition that causes damage to the optic nerve, vision loss and permanent blindness is known as Glaucoma. Maybe that is the reason why Glaucoma is called the silent thief of sight, because it develops over a long period with no severe symptoms at the initial stages.

Glaucoma: Open Your Eyes to Reality

The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which affects approximately 95% of the individuals around the world. Over 3 million Americans are suffering from glaucoma, and it is estimated that glaucoma costs the U.S. over $2.8 billion in productivity losses and direct expenses. Glaucoma is considered the second leading cause of irreversible blindness, plaguing over 60 million people across the world.

Types of Glaucoma

There are two primary types of glaucoma, i.e., open-angle glaucoma and closed angle glaucoma. The former is considered chronic, while the latter can be chronic as well as acute. Glaucoma mostly affects both the eyes; however, one eye can be affected more usually due to a prior injury, use of steroids or inflammation.

Read ahead to learn about the symptoms and causes of glaucoma:

  • Open-angle glaucoma
    • Primary open-angle glaucoma

It is the most common type of glaucoma, and as the age increases, its frequency increases because the eye’s drainage mechanism may get clogged, even though the angle is open. This prohibits the aqueous fluid draining out of the eyes, thereby, increasing the pressure painlessly. Primary open-angle glaucoma shows no symptoms, and patients remain unaware as vision loss starts on the peripheral end of the eye.

    • Normal-tension or low-tension glaucoma

This condition is caused when the blood flow to the optic nerve is reduced, even though the intraocular pressures are normal or below normal; causing progressive optic nerve damage and vision loss (peripheral vision loss). It can only be diagnosed at an initial stage if the patient visits an ophthalmologist frequently to detect loss of peripheral vision or optic nerve damage.

    • Congenital glaucoma or infantile glaucoma

Although a rare occurrence, infantile glaucoma is an eye condition, where the drainage area is not adequately developed in the womb. It is considered as an inherited type of glaucoma because the condition takes place before birth. The pressure increases because of inefficient drainage and may cause permanent blindness in the future. Infants need to be diagnosed and treated at an early stage to preserve their sight.

    • Secondary open-angle glaucoma

Inflammation of the iris, eye injuries, cataracts, diabetes and steroids (drops, oral and injected) are common causes of secondary open-angle glaucoma. The blood flow gets restricted, which is responsible for the damage to the eyes. It is also associated with retinal detachment. There is no specific treatment for secondary glaucoma, as it depends on the cause.

    • Pigmentary

It is a type of secondary glaucoma, where the pigment granules detach from the iris and block the trabecular meshwork. The blockage increases the intraocular pressure, which damages the optic nerve.

    • Exfoliative

This type of glaucoma can be categorized in both types of glaucoma, i.e.,, open-angle and angle closure glaucoma. When deposits of a flaky material accumulate on the front surface of the lens, the drainage system gets blocked, which raises the intraocular pressure.

There are no symptoms of open-angle glaucoma in its early stages; however, blind spots can appear in the peripheral vision (severe optic nerve damage), as the disease progresses. Regular eye checkups are essential to diagnose and treat open-angle glaucoma in its early stages, as it may lead to irreversible blindness.

  • Angle-Closure (Closed-Angle) glaucoma

As the name suggests, an angle closure glaucoma can be defined as an eye condition, where a portion of or the entire drainage angle of the eye gets anatomically closed; prohibiting the aqueous fluid to flow to the trabecular meshwork. The acute glaucoma is described as the condition where the intraocular pressure increases suddenly, which closes the drainage system, while the chronic glaucoma is described as the condition where the intraocular pressure increases over a long period, which damages the drainage system little by little over a period of months or years. In both the conditions, the access to the aqueous fluid is restricted which causes the increase in the eye pressure and damage to the drainage system.

Some typical angle closure glaucoma symptoms are mentioned below:

  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Blurry vision
  • Eye inflammation or red eye
  • Severe pain in the eyes or head
  • Sudden sight loss
  • In later stages, halos around lights

Tips to Prevent Glaucoma

Primary open-angle glaucoma cannot be prevented; however, early diagnosis, treatment, and compliance with treatment can prevent severe consequences. The prevention of secondary glaucoma is possible if one can avoid eye injuries or trauma/injury to the eyes and treat inflammation or other eye diseases immediately.

Laser iridotomy in the eyes can prevent some types of vision loss from angle closure glaucoma; however, the chances of development of acute or chronic closed-angle glaucoma are high as well.

Risk Factors

Although glaucoma can be diagnosed in anyone and at any age; however, certain people are at a much higher risk because of specific conditions, such as:

  • A family history of glaucoma
  • Diabetes
  • African-American ancestry
  • People over 40 years
  • Nearsightedness
  • Farsightedness
  • Injury to the eye
  • Steroid-use
  • A decrease in corneal rigidity and thickness

It is advisable to visit your eye doctor frequently to diagnose optic nerve damage and vision loss as early as possible.

Conclusion

Although there is no known treatment for late-stage glaucoma, studies are being conducted regularly to develop a cure. The worst part about glaucoma is the fact that it does not have any noticeable symptoms, which makes it challenging to detect at an early stage.

As already mentioned above, one should get their eyes checked regularly to make sure they don’t have glaucoma, and if they do, then they can try out the latest treatment options to prevent irreversible vision loss.

Glaucoma is a silent thief of sight, and its prevention is not as easy as it may appear. So, take care of your eyes in every possible way to reduce your chance of being diagnosed with glaucoma.

Take Care! Prevent! Treat ASAP!