What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disease which can cause the fluid pressure of the eye to rise. This can lead to loss of vision and blindness if not treated early. This disease can affect both eyes yet the signs and symptoms may vary in each eye. In understanding glaucoma, let us first review the anatomy of the eye. In the front of the eye there is a small space called the anterior chamber where clear fluid flows in and out. This fluid nourishes and bathes the cells of the eye and the surrounding tissues. In glaucoma, this fluid does not drain properly or it drains too slowly out of the eye. The fluid then builds up and pressure inside the eye rises. High eye pressure can lead to damage of the optic nerve and other parts of the eye, leading to loss of vision. There are two types of glaucoma: open angle and closed angle (angle closure) glaucoma. The angle is being referred to is the trabecular meshwork where the fluid escapes from the area between the iris and the cornea. The angle is lined by cells called trabeculocytes. Fluid then drains into a set of tubes known as Schlemm’s canal and further flow out into the bloodstream. In closed angle glaucoma, the patient suddenly experiences pain and rapid vision loss. On the other hand, primary open angle glaucoma or chronic glaucoma progresses very slowly with little or no symptoms, leading to a delayed diagnosis, when permanent damage has already occurred. Low tension glaucoma is another type of glaucoma with normal eye pressure yet with damage to the optic nerve. Experts believe that this may be due to oversensitivity of the optic nerve or atherosclerosis in the blood vessel that supplies the optic nerve. Pigment glaucoma usually develops during early or middle adulthood. It is caused by pigment granules which are dispersed within the eye. These pigment granules build up in the trabecular meshwork and lead to a rise in eye pressure. Glaucoma may also be due to another disease such as a tumor, diabetes, an advanced cataract, or inflammation. The signs and symptoms of primary open angle glaucoma are different from that of acute angle-closure glaucoma. In primary open-angle glaucoma, peripheral vision is lost in both eyes, which later on may give rise to tunnel vision. On the other hand, closed angle glaucoma can give rise to signs and symptoms such as severe eye pain, blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, lights often appear to have extra halo-like glows around them, red eyes and sudden vision problems especially in poor lighting. Risk factors for glaucoma include older age (age 60 years or above), ethnic background, some illnesses such as diabetes or hypertension, eye injuries, retinal detachment, eye inflammations, eye tumors, eye surgery, nearsightedness and use of corticosteroids. Glaucoma is often diagnosed by tests such as the eye pressure test (tonometry), gonioscopy, perimetry test, and test for optic nerve damage.
Children Can Acquire Glaucoma
One case at the Loyola University Medical Center involved a six-week old infant who had glaucoma and other congenital eye problems that were threatening his vision. This was confirmed by experts from the hospital who stabilized the child's vision by tiny devices that drained fluid from his eyes. Another Loyola ophthalmologist removed cataracts and scar tissue that also were threatening his vision. Now the child is a year and a half old and can see yet he needs to wear glasses. The doctors advise any mother to bring their child for evaluation if they notice anything unusual with the child's eyes. In this case, the doctor implanted a tiny silicon tubing in each eye. The device, regulated by a valve, drains fluid from the eye and has saved the child's eyesight. For more medical breakthroughs, feel free to read our other articles on this site.
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