What is Glaucoma?

Glaucoma also known as kala motia, is a disease affecting the eyes and leads to diminished vision. Eyeball is a spherical structure enclosing the lens, retina, optic nerve and an empty space. This space is filled with a fluid known as aqueous humor. It creates and sustains normal pressure  (intra-ocular pressure) within the eyeball needed to maintain its structural integrity.

Why does Glaucoma occur?

Aqueous humor is constantly circulating in the space inside the eyeball. New fluid is being secreted and existing fluid is drained out. Sometimes the mechanism which drains away the fluid fails or functions abnormally. The amount of fluid then starts building up and leads to elevated intra ocular pressure, leading to glaucoma.

There are a few risk factors which predispose a person to develop this abnormal mechanism. It is often a hereditary condition and tends to run in the family. After 40s, the risk of developing this condition increases. Other health conditions like high blood pressure, heart conditions, other eye disorders, diabetes increase the risk of developing glaucoma.

What damage does Glaucoma cause?

As described in the above section, glaucoma involves increase in the intra-ocular pressure. This eventually takes a toll on the organs present within the eyeball. The optic nerve which is responsible for maintaining normal visual acuity is damaged. This will lead to visual disturbances.

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

Glaucoma can be a painful condition. Following symptoms are experienced in glaucoma:

  • Pain in the eyes:

Dull pain within the eyes could be experienced. It is associated with heaviness of the eyes. There is sensation of pressure over the eyes. Difficulty is experienced in keeping the eyes open due to the pain.

  • Headache:

Due to elevated intra-ocular pressure, the patient may also develop headache.

  • Nausea and vomiting may be present in some cases.
  • Visual disturbances:

Patients could experience patchy blind spots in their vision. Or the vision could become uniformly hazy. Some patients may experience a phenomenon called tunnel vision. In this conditions, vision at the periphery of the span of eye is blurred. Patients could see a halo like pattern around the objects.

  • Redness of eyes is commonly observed in glaucoma patients. There could be slight bulging of the eye ball due to elevated intra-ocular pressure.

All the symptoms are not seen in each case of glaucoma. They may occur singly or in combination with each other, and vary in intensity.

What are the types of Glaucoma?

Depending on the mechanism with which the condition occurs, it has been classified into the following two types:

  • Closed angle glaucoma:

Also known as wide angle glaucoma, in this condition there is no obstruction to the outflow of aqueous humor. The fluid however does not drain as it should and accumulates within the eye ball.

  • Open angle glaucoma:

It is also known as acute glaucoma. The angle between iris and cornea gets narrowed down. This prevents proper drainage of the fluid causing increase in intra ocular pressure. It may occur as an acute condition.

How is Glaucoma diagnosed?

Examination of the eye is done by ophthalmologists for patients who present with symptoms of glaucoma. Intra-ocular pressure is measured and the optic nerve is visualized using special instruments. Prior to visualizing the structures within the eye ball, the ophthalmologist may administer eye drops for dilatation of the pupil. Tests are performed by the ophthalmologist to check for accuracy of vision and.

How can Glaucoma be treated?

Glaucoma treatment can be done by medicinal and surgical methods. In cases which do not present with severe symptoms and have not reached advanced stage, medicines will help to curb further damage. If however, medicines do not show any effect, surgery may have to be performed. Both methods of treatment have been described below:

  • Medicinal therapy:

Eye drops which will reduce intra-ocular pressure are often used. They will help to reduce formation of excess of aqueous humor or help its drainage. If eye drops alone do not help, oral medicines may be given to have a better effect in reducing the intra-ocular pressure. Steroids and prostaglandin based medicines are often used.

  • Surgery:

Surgery can be done using a laser beam or surgical equipment. The aim of all surgical methods is to assist drainage of fluid from within the eyeball. Microsurgery can be performed to create an alternate pathway for drainage of the extra fluid. In case of acute glaucoma, emergency surgery is often needed. The ophthalmologist can opt to make a small opening in the iris of the patient to allow fluid drainage and help in providing symptomatic relief.

Glaucoma can turn out to be a serious condition if left neglected. It is advisable to seek medical treatment at the earliest if any symptoms of glaucoma is experienced.