March 5th 2024

Glaucoma: Answering the Most Popular Questions

Glaucoma, often referred to as the “silent thief of sight,” is a progressive eye condition that can lead to irreversible vision loss if left untreated. As one of the leading causes of blindness worldwide, it’s no surprise that there are many popular questions surrounding this condition. In this article, we provide the answers to the most frequently asked questions about glaucoma, shedding light on its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

What is Glaucoma?

  • Glaucoma is the name given to a collection of eye diseases which are characterised by damage to the optic nerve which is typically caused by elevated intraocular pressure (IOP). This damage leads to gradual vision loss, often starting with peripheral vision and progressing to central vision if it is left untreated.

What Causes Glaucoma?

  • The exact causes of glaucoma are still not fully understood by researchers. However, the primary risk factor is increased intraocular pressure, which can result from poor drainage of aqueous humour, a fluid which helps to maintain eye pressure. It is believed that other factors such as genetics, age, ethnicity, and certain medical conditions may also play a role in its development.

Are There Different Types of Glaucoma?

  • There are several types of glaucoma, including primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG), angle-closure glaucoma, normal-tension glaucoma, and secondary glaucoma. Each type has its unique characteristics and may require different approaches to treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?

  • In the early stages, glaucoma often presents no noticeable symptoms, a fact which has led it to acquire the reputation for being “the silent thief of sight.” As the condition progresses, individuals may experience gradual peripheral vision loss, tunnel vision, blurred vision, halos around lights, severe eye pain, and nausea.

How Is Glaucoma Diagnosed?

  • Glaucoma diagnosis typically involves a comprehensive eye examination, including measuring intraocular pressure, assessing the optic nerve’s health, checking for visual field defects, and evaluating the angle where the iris meets the cornea. Additional tests such as optical coherence tomography (OCT) and gonioscopy may also be performed when searching for a diagnosis.

Can Glaucoma Be Prevented?

  • While it’s not always possible to prevent glaucoma, certain lifestyle choices can help reduce the risk of developing the condition. These include regular eye exams, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, protecting the eyes from injury, and managing underlying health conditions such as diabetes and hypertension.

Is Glaucoma Treatable?

  • Yes, glaucoma is treatable, but early detection and intervention are crucial for preserving vision. Treatment options may include prescription eye drops to lower intraocular pressure, oral medications, laser therapy (such as selective laser trabeculoplasty or SLT), conventional surgery (trabeculectomy), or minimally invasive glaucoma surgery (MIGS).

What Are the Risks of Untreated Glaucoma?

  • If left untreated, glaucoma can lead to irreversible vision loss and blindness. As the optic nerve becomes increasingly damaged, the field of vision narrows, eventually resulting in total blindness. Early detection and treatment are essential for slowing or halting the progression of the disease.

Can Glaucoma Be Cured?

  • While there is currently no cure for glaucoma, effective management can help control the condition and prevent further vision loss. Treatment aims to lower intraocular pressure and preserve remaining vision through medication, surgery, or a combination of both.

How Often Should I Get Checked for Glaucoma?

  • The frequency of eye exams depends on various factors, including age, family history, and overall eye health. As a general guideline, individuals should undergo a comprehensive eye examination at least every 1 to 2 years, starting at age 40. However, those with a higher risk of glaucoma may need more frequent screenings.

Ultimately, glaucoma is a complex eye disease which poses considerable challenges to both patients and healthcare providers. By understanding its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, and preventive measures, individuals can take proactive steps to preserve their vision and maintain a high quality of life. Regular eye exams, early detection, and adherence to treatment plans are essential in the fight against glaucoma and the preservation of vision for years to come.

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