A group of eye conditions that result in damage of the optic nerve that supplies the eye resulting in loss of vision is called Glaucoma. The vision loss occurs gradually over a period of time and may not be noticed initially. It is reported that 14 million people worldwide and 3 million people in the United States are suffering from Glaucoma.
The fluid in the eye, keeps the eye healthy and lubricated. The fluid drains out through the aperture in front corner of the eye. In case of Glaucoma, this drain is blocked due to which the fluid cannot be drained out, resulting in buildup of pressure inside the eye ball which is known as intraocular pressure. When the pressure of the fluid in the eye increases, the nerve cells get damaged. This results in loss of vision.
Blind spots first appear on the sides of the eye and if effective treatment is not given, the vision in the center of the eye is also affected resulting in permanent complete blindness.
Glaucoma is of two types- Primary open angle glaucoma, and acute angle closure glaucoma, both of these has different symptoms.
Inprimary angle glaucoma, there is loss of peripheral vision in both eyes that take place gradually. In the advanced stages, tunnel vision occurs.
Inacute angle closure glaucoma, there is severe eye pain which is accompanied by nausea and vomiting. The vision is blurred and the eyes look red. One can see halos around lights.
If a person suffers from the following symptoms he/she must seek for medical help. The symptoms of glaucoma are:
The risk factors of Glaucoma include:
An early diagnosis and treatment will reduce a range of complications. These include:
To measure the intraocular pressure, a painless diagnostic procedure known as tonometry is done.
Special tests are done to evaluate the amount of optic nerve damage and visual field. A test known as Pachymetry is done to measure the thickness of the cornea.
A test known as gonioscopy is done to inspect the angle of drainage of fluid.
Another test known as tonography is done to check how quickly the fluid is draining.
There is no complete cure for glaucoma, but glaucoma treatment helps in reducing the intraocular pressure and prevents in the increase in vision loss. Medicated eye drops are prescribed to improve the symptoms, these include Prostaglandin like compounds (bimatoprost, latanoprost); Beta blockers (metipranolol, betaxolol, timolol); Alpha agonists (brimonidine, dorzalamide); cholinergic agents ( carbachol, pilocarpine); carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (brinzolamide, dorzolamide); epinephrine compounds (dipivefrin). Oral medication that can be given in the form of pills is carbonic anhydrase.
If medications are not effective, then surgery for glaucoma needs to be preformed. To open the clogged drain canals in the eyes and allow the fluid to drain out, a procedure known as trabeculoplasty is done in which beams of laser are used. The other surgical procedures that may be done include drainage implants and filtering surgery. If a patient comes with severe form of glaucoma known as acute angle closure glaucoma, then it is treated as a medical emergency.
Certain lifestyle changes would help to ease pain and discomfort. These include:
The U.S Department of Health and Human Services has announced $335 million for the community health centers. Vision and Eye health services are also included in their funding for the very first time. The Prevent blindness America organization has been working for this inclusion. One can avail services for eye care through the Expanded services (ES) which helps protect eye health of communities all across the United States. For more information regarding the services one can contact the prevent blindness America at 1-800-331-2020