Glaucoma is an eye disease, and one of the most common causes of blindness that affects one in a hundred Canadians and three million Americans over the age of forty; the disease is caused by pressure in the eye. It often occurs in older people; however it has been known to develop at any age.
Increased pressure in the eye or poor blood flow causes people with glaucoma to lose their sight. Painless and unnoticeable, the eye slowly loses its nerve function and the loss of peripheral vision (loss of side vision). This is due to the increased pressure of the aqueous humor, (the clear water fluid that circulates in the chamber of the eye between the cornea and the lens); this causes damage to the optic nerve.
As glaucoma progresses it can destroy all peripheral vision and then impair the central vision, eventually leading to total blindness.
There are several types of glaucoma:
• Congenital glaucoma: affects young people
• Secondary glaucoma: usually the result of an injury or trauma
• Primary glaucoma: usually associated with aging (there are two types of primary glaucoma):
1. Acute or closed angle glaucoma is less common, this is when the trabecular meshwork (filter of the eye) gets obstructed or clogged and the aqueous fluid is not filtered efficiently
2. Chronic or open angle glaucoma is the most common type and patients with this type of glaucoma usually have normal or low pressure in the eye and gradually develop optic nerve changes and progressive vision loss without any symptoms until the disease has progressed to the loss of peripheral vision.
• Normal tension glaucoma: Is present although eye pressure is normal. It is usually caused by poor circulation, heart problems, brain tumors or toxic drugs
Your eye care professional can often spot whether the structure of your eye can lead to this problem and then it can be prevented with laser therapy.
Symptoms of acute or closed angle glaucoma:
- A sudden dull aching pain over one eye
- Changes in your vision
- Blurring and haloes around lights
If you have any of these symptoms you should go to the emergency room or a professional eye doctor at once. The loss of vision is not reversible; it is permanent.
Causes of glaucoma:
- Excessive use of antibiotics.
- Family history.
- Diabetics are more likely to have glaucoma
- Extreme nearsightedness or farsightedness.
- Steroid use.
- Some drugs can also harm the eyes, including Nsaid’s, Venlafaxine, Steroids, Simvastatin, Mirtazapine, Fenfluramine, Gastric antispasmodics and Antidepressants.
Tests for glaucoma are quick and painless. A pressure check for glaucoma is usually a routine part of an eye examination after the age of thirty-five. Your eye doctor measures your IOP (Intraocular pressure) with a special instrument called a tonometer. Depending on the results will decide whether you require more tests.
The most common treatment is for the patient to use eye drops daily to decrease the pressures.
- You must follow medication schedules and fully understand them. If the pressures are not kept under control you may need laser therapy or surgery.
- The field tests measure the pressures and detect any loss of peripheral vision.
- To treat an attack your doctor may use a laser to make a microscopic opening in the colored part of your eye (the iris) to prevent another attack.
- If the pressures rupture the blood vessels in your eye, you may require laser surgery to seal the ends of the blood vessels.
Self help or alternative medicines:
It is important to stay healthy since your general health can affect the glaucoma.
Helpful foods that include Vitamin C & E for eye health, or containing the following nutrients:
- Yellow and orange vegetables
- Green vegetables
- Vegetables and fruit juices
- Drink 8 -10 glasses of water daily
- Exercise for at least 20 minutes daily
- Avoid foods you have an allergic reaction to since this can increase eye pressures.
Can Glaucoma Be Cured?
Ten years ago, scientists thought it would be impossible ever to restore vision in glaucoma. Since then researchers have accomplished some initial steps.
Glaucoma research hopes to one day restore vision lost from glaucoma, but that can’t presently be done.
Existing treatments slow the process for most patients so no meaningful vision loss occurs in their lifetime. There are, however, several potential avenues to a cure.
Research Progress ~ 2016
For more than 35 years, the Glaucoma Research Foundation has funded innovative clinical and laboratory research. We will continue to lead the way in research until a cure is found.
Stem cells are being investigated as a possible treatment for glaucoma because they may have the potential to protect the optic nerve from further damage and slow the progression of vision loss due to glaucoma. Read More »
Catalyst For a Cure
Our multidisciplinary consortium is seeking new, specific and sensitive biomarkers to diagnose and manage glaucoma more effectively.
Updates and Milestones
Interested in specific advances? We publish information about new research results as it becomes available.
Annually we bring together leading experts to discuss new ideas that could lead to a cure for glaucoma.
To read more up-to-date information – please visit the following two links.
For further information in your country please visit the following links.
Copyright Sylvia McGrath originally written March 2007 – updated in March 2o15