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WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?

Glaucoma is a group of diseases that damage the eye’s optic nerve (the part of the eye that is usually affected) in the presence or absence of raised intraocular pressure (IOP) and can result in vision loss and blindness.  It is often called the silent thief of sight because it usually does not present with any symptom, only early detection and treatment can protect your eyes against serious vision loss. Glaucoma is the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world. It can develop in one or both eyes. Without treatment, people with glaucoma slowly lose their peripheral (side) vision. As it remains untreated, people may miss objects to the side and out of the corner of their eye. They seem to be looking through a tunnel (tunnel vision). Over time, straight-ahead (central) vision may decrease until no vision remains.

 

TYPES OF GLAUCOMA

There are several types of glaucoma all of which can increase IOP and damage the optic nerve.

  • OPEN-ANGLE GLAUCOMA

Open-angle glaucoma is the most common form of glaucoma, it is also the most common type in Nigeria. The increased pressure in the eye damages the optic nerve. It happens so slowly that you may lose vision before you’re even aware of a problem. At first, open-angle glaucoma has no symptoms. It causes no pain and vision stays normal. A typical silent thief of sight.

  • ANGLE-CLOSURE GLAUCOMA

Angle-closure glaucoma is also called closed-angle glaucoma. Angle-closure glaucoma may occur suddenly (acute angle-closure glaucoma) or gradually (chronic angle-closure glaucoma). Symptoms include severe pain and nausea, as well as redness of the eye and blurred vision. If you have these symptoms, you need to seek treatment immediately. Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a medical emergency.

  • NORMAL-TENSION GLAUCOMA

In normal-tension glaucoma, the optic nerve becomes damaged even though the eye pressure is within the normal range. No one knows the exact reason for this. It may be associated with a sensitive optic nerve or reduced blood supply to the optic nerve.

  • CONGENITAL GLAUCOMA

This is present from birth or develops in the first few years of life.

  • JUVENILE GLAUCOMA

This is glaucoma in children and young adults. It is possible for children and young adults to have glaucoma. The optic nerve damage may be caused by drainage blockages or an underlying medical condition.

There are other types of glaucoma called secondary glaucoma.

 

RISK FACTORS

Because chronic forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any signs or symptoms are seen, it is good to be aware of these risk factors:

  • Having high internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure)
  • Being above 35 years of age (the risk increases with age)
  • Being black, of African descent, Asian or Hispanic
  • Having a family history of glaucoma
  • People who see coloured rings around lights
  • Having corneas that are thin in the centre
  • Children with watery eyes and sensitivity to light
  • Being extremely nearsighted or farsighted
  • Having certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and sickle cell anaemia
  • Taking corticosteroid medications, especially eyedrops, for a long time
  • Having had an eye injury or certain types of eye surgery

 

CAN GLAUCOMA BE CURED?

No. There is no cure for glaucoma. Vision loss from the disease cannot be restored. However, these steps can help in detecting glaucoma in its early stages;

  • Know your family’s eye health history. Glaucoma tends to run in families.
  • Get regular dilated eye examinations. Regular comprehensive eye exams can help detect glaucoma in its early stages before significant damage occurs. It is advisable to do a comprehensive eye examination at least once every year.
  • Wear eye protection. Serious eye injuries from work or sports can lead to glaucoma.
  • Use eye drops as prescribed even if you have no symptoms. Glaucoma eye drops can significantly reduce the risk that high eye pressure will progress to glaucoma and also slow the progress of glaucoma damage.

 

GLAUCOMA TREATMENTS

Immediate treatment for early-stage, open-angle glaucoma can delay progression of the disease.

Glaucoma treatments include medicines, laser trabeculoplasty, conventional surgery, or a combination of any of these. While these treatments may save remaining vision, these treatments do not improve sight already lost from glaucoma.

 

WHEN TO SEE A DOCTOR

Promptly go to an emergency room or an eye doctor’s (ophthalmologist’s) office if you experience some of the symptoms of acute angle-closure glaucoma, such as severe headache, eye pain and blurred vision. Ask questions and get the information you need to take care of yourself and your family.

Do contact us for more information on glaucoma and how we can help.