What is glaucoma?

To put it in the simplest definition, it is a disease in your eye that can damage the optic nerve when the fluid (that keeps your eye healthy, white, and thick) gets stuck when it is draining and clogs up and causes pressure, which could cause blindness to your eyes. Doctors donít know why it happens in some people, so there is no real cure. The doctors do know that it takes place in the canal in the eye and they can do surgery to fix it and you can control the pressure with drugs.

What are the effects of glaucoma?

Glaucoma can affect the eyes in one of two ways. It usually affects both eyes, and it is the leading cause of blindness in the world. The fluid (that stops flowing and builds up the pressure, or the main cause of glaucoma) has a little to do with it, too. It keeps the eye firm and clear and if it doesnít flow through the eye, then the eye doesnít stay clear and firm. The pressure also affects the vision of the person. The pressure can damage the optic nerve and you lose your eyesight; the first to go is how far you can see, and the peripheral vision or how far you can see to the side.

The Causes

The causes of glaucoma are few. It can be hereditary and run in the family, but it is more common in African Americans than it is in Whites. Some specific things can also cause it, like steroids in the eye drops that people use, diabetes, and a previous eye injury or surgery. It also affects people of all ages. There are also things that can cause it like a bad diet, wearing contact lenses, too much reading or reading in low light, and other normal activities using the eyes.

The Symptoms

There are a lot of symptoms for some glaucoma types but there are also almost no symptoms for most of them. 15% of patients who come to the doctorís office know that they have something wrong with their eyes or that it is glaucoma. The symptoms for all glaucoma cases are blurred vision, eye pain, red eye, dilated pupils, severe pain in the head, and seeing halos around lights.

What can be done?

What can the optometrist or the ophthalmologist do for you? He can test your eyes in three ways. First, he can do a pressure test; second, he can see the color of your optic nerve and the shape of it; and last, he can do a complete field vision test. If you have glaucoma he can also check your eyes every couple of months and see what needs to be done.

Testing for Glaucoma

There are four ways to test for glaucoma. They are tonometry, ophthalmoscopy, perimetry, and gonioscopy. Tonometry is when the doctor first numbs your eye and then he takes this tool and places it on your eye. This tool measures the pressure in your eye and if it is enough pressure for glaucoma, then you have it. Opthalmoscopy is when the doctor puts eye drops into your eye, which dilate the pupil, and then he can look into your eye and see your optic nerve. If the optic nerve is damaged, then you probably have glaucoma. The next type is perimetry, which is a visual field test that helps when you have glaucoma and tests if you have lost vision or the glaucoma has hurt the eye. This test is really the result of a couple of tests. The last type of test is the gonioscopy, and this is when the doctor numbs your eye. Then he uses a special contact lenses that magnifies inside your eye. After that is put in he will look into it and if you have glaucoma then the place where the iris and the cornea meet is open either wide or narrow.

Types of Glaucoma

There are a lot of types of glaucoma, not just one. First there is angle closure glaucoma, which can also be called acute or narrow angle glaucoma. This means that the angle of the canal is blocked by part of the iris. This kind of glaucoma can only be treated with laser surgery to take it away almost completely, but it is not all the way gone. Another type of glaucoma is congenital glaucoma. This type you are born with and this type also has symptoms, which include cloudy eyes, excessive tearing, and sensitivity to light. The third type of glaucoma is pigmentary, which occurs when pigment from the iris flakes off and blocks the drainage canal. There is also secondary glaucoma, which can develop only from really specific things like a tumor, diabetes, and a medical condition most likely having something to do with your eye. The last type of glaucoma is the open angle glaucoma. This glaucoma is the most common type and comprises about 90% of all cases of glaucoma. There are no symptoms for this glaucoma, so you will really not know if you get it, which means you should get your eyes tested every couple of years. If you do have it then your vision will slowly start becoming like you are looking through a tunnel and if you donít do something about it then you will go blind.

Treatments

There are a lot of different ways to treat glaucoma. There is no cure for glaucoma yet but it can be controlled with drugs like eye drops or a pill that you take once a day. There can be some side effects to the pills, like mood swings. Doctors can do laser surgery on your eyes if it is really bad and you want to get rid of the problem, but you might still have to take medications. There are five ways to do laser surgery on your eye. The five ways are laser peripheral iridotomy, argon laser trabeculoplasty, selective laser trabeculoplasty, laser cyclophotocoagulation, and microsurgery. The first way is laser peripheral iridotomy, which is used for treating acute angle glaucoma. The procedure makes an opening in the iris, which lets the fluid drain more. The second type of eye surgery is called argon laser trabeculoplasty. This is used for the open angle glaucoma and when doctors do this they aim the laser at the opening of the canal, helping the drainage system work by making it a little bigger. Another type is the selective laser trabeculoplasty, which is a new type that was safe and became an option by 2001. It is a combination of very low frequencies that treat specific cells and leave the mesh-like drainage canals intact. The fourth type of surgery is the laser cyclophotocoagulation, which is used for severe glaucoma cases that canít be treated with minor surgery. This helps decrease the amount of fluid made. This will help because if you decrease it then there wouldnít be so much fluid and it wouldnít get stuck as much. The last type is called microsurgery. This is a conventional surgery and it is used for acute, chronic, congenital, and secondary glaucoma.

More...

Here are some other important things that you should know about glaucoma. First of all, if you have a different eye pressure than someone else it could mean that you have glaucoma and they donít because the pressure is different for everyone. The fluid is the most important thing because it is the main cause. Cells behind the iris produce the fluid and it circulates between the lenses and the cornea to keep the eye thick, white, and healthy. The fluid drains through the canals to the blood stream. If you have glaucoma, then your optic nerve has been damaged and you canít fix it but you can make the best of the vision that you still have.

Bibliography

  • Anshel, Jeffrey. Healthy Eyes Better Vision. Los Angeles, California: Price Stern Sloan, Inc., 1990.
  • Glaucoma. Philadelphia, PA: Wills Eye Hospital.
  • Glaucoma. San Francisco, CA: Glaucoma Research Foundation, 2004.
  • Glaucoma. Bethesda, MD: National Eye Institute.
  • Guide for People with Glaucoma. Schaumburg, Illinois: Prevent Blindness America, 2003.
  • Julian, Percy Lavon. "Glaucoma." World Book Encyclopedia. 2002.