A group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve is termed Glaucoma. The Optic nerve carries information from the eye to the brain. 

High pressure built in the eye can damage the optic nerve. Any damage to this nerve gradually damages the vision and may lead to complete blindness over a period, if left untreated. 

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What are the causes and symptoms of glaucoma?

Doctors have not yet completely identified the pathology of the condition.

But amongst the observed causes, increased pressure in the eye was the cause for the damage of the optic nerve followed by vision deterioration. 

Once the optic nerve gets damaged, the result is the formation of blind spots in the vision of the person impacted.

Aqueous humor (fluid in the eye) follows throughout the eye. This fluid is constantly drained through a meshwork of tissue called the trabecular meshwork. It meets at the angle of the iris and cornea.

When the fluid is produced in excessive quantities the drainage system renders ineffective. The rate of the fluid draining from the inside of the eye is hindered, thus resulting in pressure that builds inside of the eye. 

Scientists have identified genes responsible for building high pressure in the eye and optic nerve damage. Thus, it tends to be inherited and may run in families.

What are the types of Glaucoma ?

  • Open-angle glaucoma:

Open-angle glaucoma is the most commonly observed glaucoma. It results from the partial blockage of the trabecular meshwork.

The drainage angle formed by the cornea and iris in this type of glaucoma is intact. This results in the build-up of pressure in the eye, finally damaging the optic nerve.

The affected person may lose sight even before realizing the onset of the condition. Regular preventive checkups may enable early diagnosis and management of the condition.

  • Angle-closure glaucoma:

Angle-closure glaucoma, or closed-angle glaucoma, results from the bulging of the iris. 

This narrows the drainage angle between the cornea and iris. This hinders the circulation of the fluid, increasing the eye pressure.

This condition can occur suddenly (acute angle-closure glaucoma) or progressively (chronic angle-closure glaucoma). Acute angle-closure glaucoma must be treated as a medical emergency.

  • Normal-tension glaucoma:

In Normal-tension glaucoma, the fluid pressure in the eye is normal. The exact reason for this glaucoma is unknown.

The damage to the optic nerve could be due to less blood supply, or a sensitive optic nerve. 

Less blood supply could be because of atherosclerosis (fatty deposits called plaque in the arteries) or other conditions that hinder normal blood circulation.

  • Glaucoma in children:

Glaucoma can be present at birth or a child may develop glaucoma within the first few years of life. 

The observed causes have been certain medical conditions or blocked drainage of the eye fluid, leading to pressure on the optic nerve and thus damage. 

  • Pigmentary glaucoma:

The pigment molecules of the iris that block the drainage channels in this kind of glaucoma, hamper the eye fluid drainage.

The pigment molecules can be stirred up by rigorous body activities such as jogging. These disturbed molecules may now go and settle in the meshwork leading to fluctuations in the eye pressure.

What are the symptoms of Glaucoma?

The type and stage of glaucoma determine its symptoms:

Open-angle glaucoma:
  • Patchy blind spots in the central or peripheral vision (mostly both eyes)

  • Tunnel vision (advanced stages)

Acute angle-closure glaucoma:

  • Eye pain

  • Blurred vision

  • Severe headache

  • Halos around lights

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Eye redness

Glaucoma will lead to blindness; if untreated. Despite treatment, 15% of patients suffer from blindness because of glaucoma in at least one eye within 20 years of commencement of treatment.

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