What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve of the eye. It usually develops when aqueous humour accumulates in the eye. This excess fluid increases the pressure in the eye, damaging the optic nerve. The process causes irreversible vision deterioration. Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness in case of people over 60. But blindness caused by glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment.
What causes a glaucoma?
When the eye is healthy, the production and drainage of fluid is balanced. The continuously produced fluid leaves through the drain structure in the eye (called the trabecular meshwork) so the intraocular pressure is stable. In the case of a malfunctioning trabecular meshwork, the fluid accumulates, the pressure inside the eye rises and damages the optic nerve, causing optic nerve necrosis.
The optic nerve is made up of more than a million tiny nerve fibres. It is like an electric cable made up of many tiny wires. Nerve fibre destruction leads to visual field damage. As the deterioration of vision is gradual and very slow, the patient may not notice the initial symptoms. By the time it causes a complaint, a significant part of the optic nerve fibres has already destroyed.
Types of glaucoma
There are two main types:
Open-angle glaucoma: this is the most common type of glaucoma. It develops gradually, and the main cause is the problem in the drainage of the aqueous humour. This results in increased intraocular pressure, leading to optic nerve damage. This type of glaucoma is painless and does not initially cause vision loss. With some people, the optic nerves may be more sensitive to changes in eye pressure, so in these cases the risk of developing glaucoma is higher than usual. Regular eye examinations are very important to detect early signs of optic nerve damage as early as possible.
Angle-clousure glaucoma: a less common disease. Due to a spatial disproportion of the eye, the pupil becomes dilated and the drainage channels are temporarily or permanently blocked. If it is completely blocked, the intraocular pressure rises to extremely high levels. This is called an acute glaucoma attack, which is an eye condition that can cause severe blindness. It requires immediate treatment, so if you experience these symptoms, see an ophthalmologist immediately!
Symptoms of an acute glaucoma attack:
- your vision suddenly becomes blurred
- severe eye pain, headache occurs
- you feel unwell, nausea and vomiting can happen
- rainbow rings or halos appear around the lights
Angle closure glaucoma develops slowly for many people. This is called chronic angle closure glaucoma. At first there are no symptoms, the disease is not recognised until the damage becomes severe or until an acute attack occurs. It can cause blindness if not treated immediately.
Glaucoma is the silent thief of vision
In fact, half of people with glaucoma don’t even know they have a disease. With the exception of acute glaucoma attacks, glaucoma develops slowly, insidiously and almost without complaint. As asymptomatic and painless as it may be for the patient, if left untreated it can cause a narrowing of the field of vision, severe deterioration of vision and even complete loss of vision. The damage caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed, but further damage can be stopped with treatment.
Regular eye examinations can help your ophthalmologist to detect this condition and recommend appropriate treatment to preserve your vision.
Take care of your vision, make an appointment for an examination!
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