12 Apr Glaucoma, how does it affect me?
Glaucoma has been called the silent thief of sight. It is a group of related eye disorders that cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. In its early stages, glaucoma usually has no symptoms. If it is left untreated, the patient may lose their vision and may even become blind.
How does glaucoma affect the eye?
There is a small space in the front of the eye called the anterior chamber. Clear liquid flows in and out of the anterior chamber. That clear fluid nourishes and bathes nearby tissues. If a patient has glaucoma, the fluid drains too slowly out of the eye which leads to fluid build-up. Which in turn, results in a rise of pressure inside the eye.
Unless this pressure is brought down and controlled, the optic nerve (the optic nerves are the bundles of nerve fibres that connect the eye to the brain) and other parts of the eye may become damaged. This damage leads to vision loss. Glaucoma usually affects both eyes, although one may be more affected than the other.
Types of glaucoma:
There are two main types, open-angle and closed-angle glaucoma, although these are not the only types of glaucoma.
- Closed-angle glaucoma – This type usually comes on suddenly and the patient usually experiences pain and rapid vision loss.
- Primary open-angle glaucoma – This form tends to progress very slowly. The patient may not feel any symptoms; even slight loss of vision may go unnoticed.
- Pigmentary glaucoma – This is a form of open-angle glaucoma and typically develops during early or middle adulthood.
- Low-tension glaucoma – A rarer form of glaucoma. Even though eye pressure is normal, optic nerve damage still occurs. It might be due to reduced blood supply to the optic nerve.
Causes of glaucoma
Primary glaucoma means that the cause is unknown. Whereas with secondary glaucoma, the condition has a known cause, such as a tumour, diabetes, an advanced cataract, or inflammation.
Signs and symptoms of glaucoma:
For the various types of glaucoma, the signs and symptoms are different.
A sign of primary open-angle glaucoma is where peripheral vision is gradually lost and most often it affects both eyes. In advanced stages, the patient has tunnel vision.
There are more signs and symptoms for closed-angle glaucoma. There is eye pain, usually severe or blurred vision. The eye pain is often accompanied by nausea and sometimes vomiting. Another warning sign is that lights appear to have extra halo-like glows around them. The patient could also develop red eyes and have sudden, unexpected vision problems, especially when lighting is poor.
Risk factors of glaucoma for people:
- Over the age of 60
- From an ethnic background
- With diabetes or hypothyroidism
- Who have undergone eye surgery
- With nearsightedness (myopia)
- Who have suffered eye injuries
If you are at risk you should get your eyes checked regularly to identify glaucoma – and any other eye problems – as early as possible. It would be better to have your eyes checked before symptoms appear. Regular checks are key to preventing vision loss.
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