What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma by definition is optic nerve damage, causing loss of vision which mostly affects the peripheral vision. When peripheral vision is affected, a person can see most of what they’re staring at but lose parts of the vision outside the central concentrated spot. Glaucoma can go unnoticed for a while. Optic nerve damage can take a long time to really reach and effect your vision to the point you notice something is wrong.
When Glaucoma progresses, even the central vision can be lost. A serious case of glaucoma can cause blindness when left untreated. If you think you have glaucoma or seem to be experiencing the symptoms of glaucoma, it is important to seek the assistance of an eyecare professional. Regular eye tests with an optometrist will ensure your eyes are in good health.
What causes glaucoma?
One of the main glaucoma causes is elevated pressure of fluid within the eyeball. This is otherwise known as intraocular hypertension. To understand the reasons behind increased pressure within the eye, one has to first understand the construction of the human eye.
Imagine the eye, a large white ball surrounded by a blanket of nerves and at the front, a hole which we call the pupil. The centre of this hole is black as it is dark inside the centre of the eye unless a light is flashed in to it. The pupil is surrounded by a ring of colour called the iris, which can constrict and dilate around the pupil making the hole smaller or larger depending on the right amount of light required for the retina. A lens, much like a magnifying glass is compressed against the hole (pupil) to help focus the light and a smaller, clear dome shaped lens covers the front to help protect the pupil / hole.
The inside chamber is filled with a protective fluid known as aqueous humor, which flows and renews constantly. The old fluid moves through the chamber behind the pupil, in to the front dome chamber, where it naturally drains away from the surface of the eye.
Glaucoma can sometimes happen when the optic nerve is damaged by fluid pressures inside the eye becoming too high and tight. Sometimes the fluid removing canals become plugged up or the flow in to the front chamber has become blocked. There are many causes for these blockages.
What are the main glaucoma symptoms?
As mentioned, glaucoma can very easily go unnoticed so it is important to visit your optometrist for an annual check-up. Some of the main glaucoma symptoms are as follows:
- Partial loss of vision. Usually peripheral (side) vision. You may experience patchy blind spots.
- Difficulty in focussing on nearby objects. In some cases double vision.
- Driving at night, reading under a light or watching TV could become difficult.
- Your eyes may become excessively tired and see halos or rainbows around light sources and you may experience difficulty in focussing when in a dark room.
- Redness in the eyes.
- Frequent headaches which in extreme cases can lead to nausea and vomiting.
Is it possible to get a glaucoma test?
Yes, individuals who are at high risk of developing glaucoma can be tested regularly to help maintain the quality of their vision.
There are many different tests that can be performed to monitor for glaucoma. One glaucoma test is called Ophthalmoscopy, this will show the condition of the optic nerve through a special microscope, if necessary a special camera will take photographs of your eye for comparison.
There is a glaucoma test called Tonometry, this test measures for the presence of elevated pressure within the eye which is a key risk factor for glaucoma. The thickness of the cornea can influence the results of a Tonometry test so an eye specialist may measure the cornea by performing a test called Pachymetry. Knowing the thickness of the cornea will help the doctor to interpret the pressure within the eye more accurately.
Another type of glaucoma test is called a Gonioscopy test, this will show if there is any blockage where the fluid in the eye is supposed to drain. This will be a cause for increased pressure in the eye.
Is there a glaucoma cure? What is the best glaucoma treatment?
Glaucoma can be managed if it is detected early on. For serious cases, unfortunately there is no immediate cure as yet, but there are glaucoma treatments that will help prevent loss of vision or any further loss of vision. Glaucoma treatment can come in many forms depending on the seriousness of the glaucoma symptoms.
Depending on what your eye specialist feels is best for your case, generally, the glaucoma treatment will come in the form of eye drops, pills or surgery, perhaps even a combination of these methods.
If surgery is required, this is usually performed with a laser which will help fix the drainage problems in your eye and relieve the pressure build up. This surgery is usually done whilst conscious. Eye drops will numb the eye making it a painless procedure, carried out fairly quickly.
There are natural remedies that will support and maintain your eye health. Your body will benefit greatly from the consumption fresh organic juices (particularly carrot juice!). It also pays to have a balanced nutritious diet full of healthy fats, protein, fruit and vegetables packed full of essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
If you are experiencing symptoms of glaucoma, please make an appointment with your local Eye Concepts optometrist immediately.