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Glaucoma

Overview

Glaucoma is a medical condition in the eyes wherein there is damage to the optic nerves. The optic nerve is responsible for carrying information that is transmitted to the brain. In most patients, glaucoma is caused by tremendous amounts of pressure in the eyes. This is known as IOP or intraocular pressure.

Causes

In the United States, glaucoma is the number cause for blindness in patients. Chronic or open-angle glaucoma is the most common type. Other types of glaucoma are acute or angle-closure glaucoma, secondary glaucoma, and congenital glaucoma.

In chronic or open-angle glaucoma, there is no known cause, but it has been studied that over time, the pressure in the eye increases gradually. The pressure affects the optic nerve, as well as the retina which is located at the back portion of the eye. Genetic and hereditary factors are also attributed to open-angle glaucoma.

Acute or angle-closure glaucoma, on the other hand, is caused when the aqueous humor fluid is cannot exit. Usually, there is pain when the pressure in the eye increases. This is also known as intraocular pressure or IOP. Angle-closure glaucoma should be treated as an emergency.

Secondary glaucoma can be caused by certain eye diseases like uveitis and other systemic diseases. It can also be caused by drugs like corticosteroids.

Congenital glaucoma is usually hereditary, and can already be diagnosed upon birth. This is caused by an abnormal growth of the eye’s outflow channels for fluids.

Diagnosis

To confirm whether a patient has glaucoma or is at risk of having the disease, eye exams can be done. When the pupil of the eye is dilated, the doctor can then examine the eye by looking through the pupil. A complete eye exam must be performed to make the necessary diagnosis. Usually, a tonometry or measuring the intraocular pressure is not enough to be able to diagnose glaucoma. The pressure in the eye changes from time to time. Other tests that can be done to diagnose glaucoma are:

• Gonioscopy – the doctor uses a special type of lens to examine the eyes
• Tonometry – to measure the amount of pressure in the eyes
• Optic nerve imaging – where the inside of the eyes are photographed
• Retinal examination
• Visual acuity

Symptoms

With chronic or open-angle glaucoma, there are hardly any symptoms at all until patients notice that they are gradually losing vision. Tunnel vision is also common among patients, where side vision or peripheral vision is slowly reduced.

For acute or angle-closure glaucoma, symptoms usually occur and subside, and sometimes get worse at a steady pace. There is usually sudden and severe pain in one or both eyes, and cloudy vision is experienced more frequently. Patients are also prone to vomiting and nausea, the eyes feel swollen, and there are rainbow-like halos seen around lights.

For congenital glaucoma, the symptoms are noticeable in as early as a few months after a child is born. There is a noticeable cloudiness in front of the eyes, and one or both eyes are enlarged.

Treatment

Treatment for glaucoma means that the pressure in the eyes must be reduced to prevent pain and further damage that can lead to blindness. Surgery is one of the main treatments being used for glaucoma, depending on the type and severity.

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