Glaucoma: Causes, Types and How We Can Help
Your Eye Guardian has constantly been a champion for early detection of glaucoma with our state of the art diagnostic process. But you may have wondered: why?
What’s so scary about glaucoma?
In this article, we will explore this condition and whether it is treatable.
What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that affect the optic nerve, which is essential for proper vision.
Excessively high eye pressure is often the source of this damage.
Did you know that glaucoma is one of the most common causes of blindness in people over 60?
It can strike at any age, but it is more common in the elderly.
Many types of glaucoma have no symptoms. Because the effect is so slow, you may not detect a change in vision until the condition has progressed significantly.
A full dilated eye exam is the only way to determine if you have glaucoma.
Glaucoma has no cure, but early treatment can frequently prevent more damage and protect your vision.
That’s your cue to book a comprehensive eye exam with your eye doctor after reading this article!
What causes glaucoma?
Aqueous humor, the fluid inside your eye, normally drains out of your eye through a mesh-like channel called the trabecular meshwork.
The aqueous humor builds up if the trabecular meshwork becomes clogged or if the eye produces too much fluid.
When the fluid cannot flow out at its typical rate, causing an increased build-up of pressure in your eye. This pressure, called intraocular pressure, is naturally there.
But if this intraocular pressure inside grows too high, it can cause optic nerve damage!
As damage to your nerve progresses, you may begin losing sight in your eye.
Experts aren’t always sure what causes the blockage. It can, however, be inherited, which means that those with a family history of glaucoma are more likely to get it.
The most common causes of optic nerve damage are:
- An injury to the eye
- A severe eye infection
- Blocked blood vessels inside your eye
- High blood pressure
It’s uncommon, but eye surgery to treat another problem might sometimes trigger elevated eye pressure.
Glaucoma usually affects both eyes, but one may be more affected than the other.
What are the risk factors for glaucoma?
Here’s another glaucoma fact for you: Glaucoma is one of the world’s top leading causes of blindness!
While glaucoma primarily affects individuals over the age of 60, it can also affect young adults, children, and even infants.
Because chronic types of glaucoma can cause vision loss before any symptoms or signs appear, be aware of the following risk factors.
People over 60 are at increased risk of glaucoma, and the risk of glaucoma increases slightly with each year of age.
People of African heritage are much more likely than Caucasians to develop glaucoma.
Angle-closure glaucoma is more common in people of Asian heritage, whereas normal-tension glaucoma is more common in people of Japanese descent.
- Having a family history of glaucoma
- Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anemia
- Having corneas that are thin in the centre
- Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
- Taking corticosteroid medications, especially eyedrops, for a long time
What are the types of glaucoma?
We’ll be looking at the 5 main types of glaucoma:
Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma
The most prevalent type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma.
In primary open-angle glaucoma, the trabecular meshwork appears to be in good working order. Yet, the aqueous humor does not flow out as it should.
As a result, the pressure inside the eye steadily rises and harms the optic nerve.
Primary open-angle glaucoma happens so slowly that it can cause irreversible vision loss before you even realise there’s a problem.
Angle-closure glaucoma, also known as closed-angle glaucoma, is a condition in which the iris bulges forward. This keeps the aqueous humor from draining, causing intraocular pressure to rise.
Acute Angle Closure Glaucoma
Acute angle-closure glaucoma is most widespread in Asia.
This form of glaucoma is a medical emergency.
This can result in a sudden severe and painful increase in eye pressure. Angle-closure glaucoma can cause blindness in as little as a few days if not treated.
You should call your doctor immediately if you begin experiencing symptoms, such as severe pain, nausea, and blurred vision.
Chronic Angle Closure Glaucoma
Another type of angle-closure glaucoma, known as slow or chronic angle-closure glaucoma, develops more slowly and may go unnoticed.
Congenital glaucoma occurs when a child is born with glaucoma.
Congenital glaucoma affects children due to an abnormality in the angle of their eyes, which slows or hinders normal aqueous humor outflow.
Congenital glaucoma, unlike most forms of glaucoma, actually presents with symptoms!
Those with congenital glaucoma tend to have a family history of it.
Normal-tension glaucoma is a kind of open-angle glaucoma that affects people with normal eye pressure.
Another glaucoma fact: Normal-tension glaucoma affects about one-third of persons with open-angle glaucoma.
Although your eye pressure may be normal, you may have blind patches in your eyesight or damage to your optic nerve.
When another condition creates increased pressure in your eye, it is known as secondary glaucoma.
Secondary glaucoma is frequently a result of an accident or another eye problem, such as cataracts or diabetes.
Some forms of secondary glaucoma are:
- Neovascular glaucoma: The eye makes extra blood vessels that cover the trabecular meshwork, increasing the intraocular pressure.
- Pigmentary glaucoma: The pigment (colour) from your iris flakes off. The loose pigment may block aqueous humor from draining out of the eye, causing high eye pressure
- Uveitic glaucoma: This happens in people who have uveitis, a condition that causes inflammation in the eye.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
The majority of people with open-angle glaucoma have no early symptoms. If symptoms do appear, it is usually late in the course of the disease.
Glaucoma is known as the “silent thief of sight” because of this.
The most common symptom is a loss of side vision, often known as peripheral vision.
Furthermore, according to the type and stage of your glaucoma, symptoms may differ.
- Patchy blind spots in your side or central vision, frequently in both eyes
- Tunnel vision in the advanced stages
Babies with this form of glaucoma have clear symptoms:
- Cloudy eyes
- Are sensitive to light
- Extra teary eyes
- May have eyes that are larger than normal
Acute angle-closure glaucoma
Angle-closure glaucoma symptoms frequently appear faster and are more noticeable. As mentioned earlier, acute angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency.
If you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate treatment:
- severe eye pain
- eye redness
- sudden visual disturbances
- seeing coloured rings around lights
- sudden blurred vision
Can you treat glaucoma?
Glaucoma damage is irreversible.
Thus, glaucoma treatment aims to lower intraocular pressure in order to prevent further vision loss.
Your eye doctor may employ one or more of the following therapies to treat glaucoma.
The most common glaucoma treatment is prescription eye drops.
These prescription eye drops work to reduce eye pressure and protect your optic nerve in a few ways:
- Reducing the amount of aqueous humor produced by the eye
- Assist better fluid flow by widening narrow drainage angles
Your eye doctor may prescribe you oral glaucoma medications instead of eye drops.
Another glaucoma treatment option is surgery. If a clogged or slow meshwork is producing high eye press, your eye doctor may recommend surgery to create a drainage path or remove tissues that are causing the problem.
How is glaucoma diagnosed?
You can detect glaucoma in its early stages with a comprehensive eye exam before it causes major damage.
While glaucoma can’t be cured, early detection prevents severe vision loss.
If you’re at risk for glaucoma, you’ll need to get your eyes checked more frequently.
Your Eye Guardian is pleased to inform you that we can help with a glaucoma diagnosis!
Are you worried that you may be at risk for glaucoma?
We understand your concern for your eyes, which is why we’ve created a 6-in-1 Optometry Package just for you!
Your Eye Guardian is one of the very few optical shops in Singapore with hospital-grade equipment to address your eye concerns.
As a part of our package, one of the advanced tests that we will be carrying out is a glaucoma test!
We care about your long term health and are equipped with the expertise of detecting early symptoms of glaucoma.
Treating glaucoma successfully is a team effort. So, make your appointment now!