Glaucoma is a progressive disorder of the eye in which the cells of the optic nerve are damaged by excessive pressure from the fluid in the eyeball. It is the second leading cause of blindness in North America, after diabetes.
Glaucoma often has a familial component. There are several types of glaucoma, each of which depends on different disease processes and which tend to appear in different racial groups. Overall, people of African descent are more prone to glaucoma than white people.
In glaucoma, fluid is produced normally, but the trabecular meshwork cannot remove it, due to an obstruction or other reason.Fluid pressure builds in the eye, which compresses the optic nerve (the nerve that connects the eye to the brain). The blood supply to the nerve cells is then gradually reduced, and the cells eventually die. The external nerves are affected first and vision is usually lost starting in the extremities, leaving only “tunnel vision” and gradually leading to blindness. Often people do not notice this phenomenon, which is usually not accompanied by pain, and therefore glaucoma can be quite advanced when it is detected. According to kraffeye.com, only one in two people who have this disease are aware of it.
Treatment and Prevention
A variety of drugs can relieve eye pressure and prevent injury. Most are given as eye drops. Beta-blockers, alpha-2 agonists and carbonic anhydrase inhibitors slow down production fluid from the eye while prostaglandin analogues and miotics such as pilocarpine improve drainage. These drugs must be taken for the rest of life, however, and patients with glaucoma often prefer surgery or laser treatment.
The most common procedure is laser trabeculoplasty. This operation is performed in 15 minutes in an outpatient clinic and does not cause any pain. The laser light does not cause any damage when it passes through the surface of the eye, its energy being concentrated on the trabecular network, whose volume it reduces and clears the openings. After this operation, the patient can often give up their glaucoma medication. There are also other possible surgical procedures, if this maneuver fails.
If glaucoma is treated early, vision loss can be minimized or prevented. Since glaucoma is often asymptomatic, it is important to have your eye examined periodically.