Glaucoma is the most common cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world.
It is a group of eye diseases where there is damage to the nerve of the eye. The nerve of the eye carries vision from the eye to the brain. Damage to this nerve, called the optic nerve, results in vision loss. We call the vision loss a visual field defect. This damage is often progressive and left untreated results in blindness.
The major risk factors to have the eye disease include raised eye pressure, older age, cardiovascular disease, myopia and diabetes mellitus.
Early damage leads to vision loss but. Unfortunately, this is seldom noticed by the individual. For that reason, individuals often present with severe vision loss or blindness.
Fortunately, blindness can be prevented by early detection and treatment. Treatment is meant to reduce the pressure of the eye. The eye pressure reduction is by means of eyedrops, surgery or laser.
Eyedrops used include beta-blockers, carbonic anhydrase inhibitors, prostaglandin analogues and alpha agonists.
Surgery includes trabeculectomy, aqueous shunt device implantation and minimally invasive glaucoma surgery.
Lasers include laser peripheral iridotomy and selective laser trabeculoplasty.
Types of glaucoma
The two main types are primary open angle glaucoma and primary angle closure glaucoma. Other types are called secondary glaucoma. These are due to inflammation, trauma, steroids, diabetes mellitus and other causes. Irrespective of the cause, treatment is still directed by treating the cause where possible and reduce the eye pressure.
Finally, what is important to know is prevention is key. Prevention of vision loss is by early detection. The best way is by regular eye screening by an eye doctor. Screening is recommended 2 to 4 yearly after the age of 40. If there is a family member with glaucoma, eye screening should be 2 yearly.