Each year the number of glaucoma sufferers gets alarmingly higher and is expected to skyrocket to roughly 79 million by the end of 2020. With such startling statistics, it becomes paramount to take good care of your eyes and do the best you can to ward off potential diseases. Here is what you need to know about glaucoma and how you can decrease the risk of getting it. Let’s get started.
What is Glaucoma?
This is a health condition affecting the optic nerve of the eye which creates excessive intraocular pressure and may result in permanent loss of vision if left untreated. There are two main types, the most common one being open-angle glaucoma. It is characterised by changes in the drainage passage, which prevent fluid from flowing out of the eye. As a result, pressure builds up in the area, causing a number of problems. This one develops slowly and it’s often hard to tell it’s there before things get out of hand.
The second type is acute, or chronic, angle-closure glaucoma in which the drainage passage gets blocked at warp speed. This is a medical emergency that happens unexpectedly and has to be attended to as soon as possible. Or else, you risk losing your ability to see.
What are the Symptoms?
The thing about glaucoma is that it often goes unnoticed for years because it doesn’t have any early symptoms. The only way it can be detected on time is through regular eye exams, spaced several years apart. The first sign that something is amiss with your eyes is loss of side, or peripheral, vision. But it can take time to notice such a change. You should definitely get immediate medical care if you have any of the following symptoms:
- (Severe) pain in the eyes
- Redness in one eye
- Tunnel vision (narrowed vision)
- Vision loss
- Vomiting or nausea
- Blurring eyes
- Seeing halos around lights
- Profuse tearing
Who is at Risk?
People who run the biggest risk of getting glaucoma over time are those:
- Who have had an eye injury or surgery
- Have diabetes
- Are aged 40 or older
- Have a family history of the disease
- Have severe near-sightedness (myopia)
- Experience farsightedness
- Use corticosteroids
- Have high blood pressure
- Are of Inuit, East Asian, African-American, or Japanese descent
How is it Diagnosed?
The doctor will examine your eyes carefully by testing your vision, checking eye pressure (tonometry), and taking photos of inside structures. In order to get a view of the colour and shape of the nerve, they will have to dilate (open) your pupils using special drops.
Another diagnostic exam that may be performed during your medical check-up is called gonioscopy. It involves the placement of a contact lens with a mirror onto the eye. It will show the doctor if the angle between the cornea and iris is wide and open or blocked and closed, both of which can be a sign of glaucoma.
There are plenty of other tests that help detect the disease early on. The reason for this is pretty simple: it is not easy to diagnose glaucoma, so the more exams you have, the more precise the evaluation will be.
How To Prevent Glaucoma
There is little you can do to keep the condition from striking but if you diagnose it early, you can control it and slow it down.
- Get your peepers checked regularly. If you are under 40 years old, you are advised to undergo thorough eye exams once every five to ten years. Then as you get older, your eye sessions should become more recurrent – once every two years or so. This is the best way to detect the disease while it’s still in its early stages and no considerable damage has been done yet.
- Get regular exercise. You can try working in the yard and swimming. Of course, it doesn’t have to be a strenuous activity; you can stick with walking and yoga. Just make sure you do it habitually.
- Wear hats and sunglasses when outdoors. Overexposure to the sun can be bad for your body and that applies to your eyes too. Make sure you cover those vital organs with adequate accessories to shield the ultraviolet light off them.
- Indulge in orange, yellow, and dark green veggies/fruits. They are valuable sources of carotenoids like zeaxanthin and lutein that can protect against various medical conditions, glaucoma included. Combined with moderate exercise, this will help you maintain a healthy weight, which is another crucial element of staving diseases off.
- Do not smoke. It’s easier said than done, but if you can ditch the cigarettes, you will do your peepers and your whole body a huge favour.
What Treatment Options are Available?
There are different types of glaucoma, hence the treatment varies from case to case. Some people may be advised to undergo laser surgery in order to remove fluid blockage and improve the flow in the eye altogether. Others may find that microsurgery is more effective in relieving the symptoms and minimising the bad effects of the disease. The procedure is known as trabeculectomy and is used to create a new channel where the fluid can flow effortlessly, decreasing eye pressure.
If the condition is congenital – that is, you were born like that – the only way it can be treated is by surgery.
And finally, to lower the pressure in the eyes, your doctor might also prescribe special eye drops which will increase the outflow or reduce fluid formation.