Published: 02/02/2016 - Updated: 03/10/2018
Author: MSc. Miriam Reyes
Did you know that today the leading cause of irreversible blindness in the world is glaucoma? The main concern is that this is a disease that, in its most common form, does not produce symptoms in the affected person and that is why specialists call it “the silent thief of sight”. World Glaucoma Day is observed today, not in celebration, but to fight against and warn people of its dangers, especially to all those who ignore it and have not even heard of it.
What is Glaucoma?
Glaucoma is a disease that damages the optic nerve leading to blindness. This occurs by elevated intraocular pressure, resulting from an accumulation of fluid or aqueous humor, which was not properly drained. This substance accumulates, causing pressure inside the eye and eventually damaging the optic nerve which is sensitive in nature.
As already mentioned, unfortunately symptoms of Glaucoma are not easy to pick up on clearly in the initial stages, so to catch it early at a time when you can still do something to avoid losing your overall vision it is crucial that you go to an ophthalmologist from time to time, in order to carry out a preventive check-up. Doctors recommend going when you reach 40 years old, gradually continuing to do so every 2-4 years. Of course, if a family member suffers from glaucoma and you are part of a group at higher risk, screening for the disease is recommended from 30 to 35 years.
Once Glaucoma is detected, there are rigorous medical treatments available in order to prevent the disease from progressing, as to date there is no known cure. That is why if you are diagnosed with Glaucoma, you must be consistent in your visits to the specialist and fulfil all doctor’s recommendations, as only in this way can you preserve sight and or lose it to a lesser degree. Early diagnosis is key.
Groups at risk
Medical researchers report that people at greatest risk of suffering from Glaucoma are over 60, diabetics, those who have relatives with the disease, those who use steroids for a very long time and those suffering from intra-occular pressure. Currently it is not known for certain as further research is still necessary, however it has been suggested that those who are short-sighted or use glasses are more prone to developing it, as well as those who wear contact lenses, like to read, write or spend hours doing activities where the eyes must concentrate intensely. There are many questions that to date have not been clarified, so to avoid developing Glaucoma it is suggested that everyone from the age of 40 and onwards, or for those in the aforementioned groups at risk from 35 years and up.
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There are several types of congenital glaucoma, that is when you are born with the disease. There is open-angle glaucoma, which has no symptoms, as well as narrow-angle glaucoma. It is noteworthy that the latter does produce symptoms, they are: severe pain in and behind the eyes, sudden increase in eye pressure, eye redness, rapid vision loss, headaches and general ill-feeling in the eye area.
Treatment for Glaucoma
We are not doctors and are therefore unable to diagnose or treat Glaucoma, but we can give some light advice, to generally give readers a better idea of available treatments.
There is medication available to reduce and control Glaucoma’s effects, which seeks to decrease the formation of aqueous humor in the eye and helps the effective vacation of pressure.
Another treatment is carried out using a laser: In this procedure, a small hole is made for effective drainage and to thereby reduce intraocular pressure. Some results indicate that this solution can help for a few years, but later it must be repeated or combined with an alternative treatment. The advantage is that this is not a particularly traumatic procedure, although it may not apply to all types of glaucoma.
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And finally you can have a surgical procedure done, but as a last resort if drugs and laser treatments have not worked to reduce pressure.
If you’re going to resort to surgery, you should know that the results of success are encouraging, as approximately 80% of surgical procedures have a successful outcome, while the remaining 20% had to repeat the surgery later. This procedure is ambulatory, so anaesthetic is only used on the eye.
Advice for Treatment
If you are a patient undergoing treatment to combat glaucoma, here are some recommendations:
- Keep your eyes clean to avoid irritation, especially if you are female and are accustomed to using cosmetics: It is recommended to use hypo-allergenic products, or better still, not use make-up on the eyes at all.
- If you swim, wear glasses for protection, and the same for if you take part in artisan hobbies such as painting or gardening.
- Try to avoid stress: The disease will be more bearable and less uncomfortable.
- Eat healthily and maintain a good, low salt diet which will aid in your overall health and to not retain fluid.
Revised by: Dra. Loredana Lunadei on 03/10/2018
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