According to All About Vision, “Glaucoma refers to a group of related eye disorders that all cause damage to the optic nerve that carries information from the eye to the brain. In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye”. This damage leads to one of the most common causes of blindness. This high pressure in the eye can lead to nerve damage that results in permanent vision loss. Although glaucoma is usually associated with high pressure in the eye, it is also possible for it to occur in those with normal eye pressure.
Congenital glaucoma is a form of glaucoma that is inherited and present at birth. According to All About Vision, 80% of cases are diagnosed by age one, although diagnosis can be difficult as the children don’t tend to understand what is happening and are unable to describe their symptoms.
Initially glaucoma has no noticeable symptoms, which is why it can be so difficult to catch early on. It can be detected through an eye exam, but otherwise it is not noticeable until vision is gradually lost in the peripheral zone of the eyes. By the time someone has noticed a loss of vision, they have lost 50-70% of visual function and they can not gain this vision back. So early detection is the best prevention.
For some less common types of glaucoma, such as angle-closure glaucoma, there are sudden symptoms. All About Vision lists the following as symptoms of an attack of angle-closure glaucoma:
- Severe pain in the eye or forehead
- Redness of the eye
- Decreased vision or blurred vision
- Vision rainbows or halos
These symptoms of glaucoma come on suddenly and immediate action is needed to preserve vision in the affected eye. Prior to an attack, it is possible that the sufferer may have no idea that they have angle-closure glaucoma, similarly to how most other types of glaucoma have no noticeable symptoms until permanent eye damage has occurred.
Treatment for glaucoma varies from eye drops to oral medication to surgery. According to All About Vision, failure to properly follow an eye drop regiment is a leading reason for blindness caused by glaucoma. Due to the lack of physical or painful symptoms, patients often become careless with their eye drops. However, a prescribed regiment must be followed for the drops to be effective.
If eye drops or oral medication is not enough to control the pressure, glaucoma surgery may be necessary.
Glaucoma surgeries aim to relieve pressure in the eye in one of two ways. Surgery will either increase the fluid flow out of the eye to lower pressure, or it will limit the fluid flow into the eye to lower pressure. Depending on the particular form of glaucoma that a patient has, there are several types of surgeries that can be performed.
Often times, patients will need to continue eye drops or medication even after surgery, or will require another surgery after several years. It is important to continue visiting your eye care professional regularly to monitor glaucoma to be sure that further action is not needed and that pressure is not once again building within the eye.