The earliest mentions of glaucoma appeared in the Greek language as the word ‘glaukos’ which meant ‘a sparkling silver glare’. In 400 BC Hippocratic mentioned glaucoma as a blinding disease common among the elderly. However, it wasn’t until 1856 that the first effective treatment of glaucoma was carried out by Von Graefe.
Even today glaucoma, though it can appear at any age, is the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 60. It damages the eye’s optic nerve and leading to irreversible eye damage due to intense pressure on the optic nerve. Adding to the challenges this disease brings is the fact that many forms of glaucoma are so gradual and asymptomatic that one may not notice the weakening in vision until the condition is at an advanced stage.
A deeper understanding of glaucoma
Glaucoma refers to a pressure buildup on the optic nerve of the eye. The clear fluid present in the front part of the eye helps to give shape and nourish the eye. It flows through a spongy tissue knows as the trabecular meshwork. When the pressure inside the eye increases, the fluid starts to build up.
As the pressure rises, the optic nerve may be damaged causing loss of vision. The information taken to the brain when you see anything is via the optic nerve. Damage to this nerve compromises information to your brains and therefore leads to loss of vision.
Types of Glaucoma
The two major types of glaucoma caused due to IOP is open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma.
Open-angle glaucoma or ‘the sneak thief of sight’
This type of glaucoma has no early signs or symptoms. Therefore, many people are unaware of this disease until a very advanced stage. It is a chronic condition affecting approximately 90% of glaucoma cases. When the trabecular meshwork is partially blocked, the IOP rises gradually leading to loss of peripheral vision and eventually central vision.
This type of glaucoma is referred to as a medical emergency and calls for urgent attention to treatment to prevent loss of sight. Though it is a less common form of glaucoma, it is distinguished by the sudden closure of drainage angle. A rapid increase in eye pressure leads to the deterioration of vision quickly.
Though the above two are the most general types of glaucoma, two more categories are less common. Normal-tension glaucoma can occur even with normal IOP and childhood glaucoma which occur in rare cases of infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
Do you have more questions?
Life is full of curveballs and surprises. The more prepared you are the easier it will be. We prepared a list of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Glaucoma to help you.
Which group is most prone to Glaucoma?
Though everyone is prone to glaucoma especially the elderly, a certain type of people is at high risk. These include steroid users, people with a history of Glaucoma, and certain ethnic groups. Glaucoma can also be caused due to eye injury.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Unusual sensitivity to lights could be a sign of glaucoma. Seeing rainbow-coloured signals and Halos around lights should be taken as a warning. Quick medical help can help save eye vision.
Are glaucoma treatments available today?
Charleston Glaucoma Specialists offer treatments through drops, laser, and traditional surgeries. Though glaucoma cannot be cured, preventive measures can be taken to further protect eyesight. It is important to get regularly checked by an ophthalmologist to detect it in the early stages.
How quickly does glaucoma get worse?
As glaucoma typically grows slowly, the progression can be slowed down even further or stopped if the right treatment is provided in the early stage. The damage caused however is irreversible. Hence, it is always advised to go for regular checkups to detect it in the early stage.
Is glaucoma stress-related?
Stress has never been a good friend to anyone. Continuous stress can harm the eye and the brain. It can be a major cause of not just glaucoma but many visual diseases.
Does exposure to the sun also cause glaucoma?
Long exposure to the sun will inevitably lead to harmful UV rays come in your way which could result in vision damage. So next time you head out for a long soak in the sun, take along those giant sunglasses with you.
Can eye exercises help prevent glaucoma?
Some forms of intense exercises may cause more pressure on your eyes. The good news is that if it is detected early and the treatment starts on time, certain eye exercises can lower eye pressure especially for patients who are at high risk for glaucoma.
Is there a home-based test for glaucoma?
The answer is no. As glaucoma is a slow stealing invisible thief, no test can compare to the accuracy of an ophthalmologist,
What food is bad for glaucoma?
Healthy eating habits always contribute to the overall health of man and treating the worse of diseases and illnesses. Glaucoma is no different. Cutting down on fatty acids, staying clear of saturated fats, less caffeine consumption, and taking good complex carbohydrates are some food habits one must keep in mind.
Can I live a normal life after being diagnosed and treated?
The life expectancy of glaucoma patients is normal and after treatment, they can even go back to carrying out activities as they did before. To maintain quality of life is the very aim of treating such patients at an early stage.
Being diagnosed with glaucoma can be stressful but remember, you can now fight this battle against darkness. With the tremendous amount of ongoing research and the use of proper medication, life will not change for you. You will not have to limit your life if you manage to get professional help from the beginning. Yes, the journey will be a little rocky, but hey you get to be a Hero of your own life. How cool is that?
Elena Deeley did her degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. She has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.
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