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Identifying glaucoma to improve the quality of life

Glaucoma is one of the major causes for blindness among older people. Although, anyone can get glaucoma, the risk increases as one gets old.  Less or no symptoms, ignorance in the initial stages, skipping regular eye checkups may complicate the condition resulting in change in vision or vision loss. Awareness about the condition and regular testing helps in managing glaucoma better.

In the case of Rekha, she always liked watch TV and it was her favorite pass time. Although her children had told her multiple times to reduce the TV time, she had not budged to it and continued to watch her serials regularly. However, recently her son observed that Rekha was avoiding watching TV and she was spending more time in their balcony. Happy about this change initially Rekha’s son did not discuss this with this mother. But AsRekha started to spend more and more time in the balcony staring at the vehicles and her son was puzzled about the change. While discussing with Rekha, she informed him that she is not able to clearly see the visuals in the TV and her vision is blurred. Immediately, Rekha was taken for the eye checkup where the doctor told that she has developed glaucoma. Since the condition was already in the advanced stage, Rekha had to undergo surgery to manage the condition.

What causes glaucoma?

Glaucoma is an eye disease damaging the optic nerve. It develops due to the high pressure inside the eye. Sustained pressure for a long time can slowly wear the optic nerve making the person loss his vision.

While all of our eyes makes a clear fluid which fills the front portion of the eye, this leaves our eye through the channel in the cornea or iris. If these channels are blocked or damaged, then the intraocular pressure (IOP) increases inside the eye damaging the nerve. Though, the reason for damage or blocking of the channel is still not clear, the following factors may cause the blockage in some people.

  • Old age
  • Severe eye infection
  • Blocked blood vessel inside the eye
  • Having a family history of glaucoma
  • High blood pressure
  • Dilating eye drops
  • Few medications and corrective surgery
  • Unmanaged diabetes

Symptoms of glaucoma

There are different types of glaucoma and the most common type is open angle glaucoma which does not show any symptoms in the initial stage except gradual vision loss.  Regular visits to the ophthalmologist after the age of 40 can help in identifying this condition early.

The second type is of acute angle closure glaucoma which is caused due to sudden build-up of pressure inside the eye. This condition is common in older adults who have untreated cataracts. As acute angle closure glaucoma occurs immediately, the person may face severe pain in the eye, headache, coloured haloes, nausea or blurred vision. This is the severe form of glaucoma where the patient needs to be treated immediately to avoid permanent vision loss.

Other types of glaucoma like secondary glaucoma and normal tension glaucoma also does not show any symptoms in the initial stage.

Who are at a risk of glaucoma?

  • People who have suffered eye injury in the past
  • Diabetes and thyroid disease
  • Family history of glaucoma
  • Certain steroid medications
  • History of migraine
  • Sleep apnea
  • Frequent change in power of spectacle lens

Can glaucoma be prevented?

Glaucoma cannot be prevented as it occurs due to the increase in eye pressure which can happen due to various reasons. But a timely treatment can help in slowing down the progress and avoid complete vision impairment. Ongoing monitoring of the eye health will help in early detection and can lower the risk of glaucoma among your loved ones.

Regular eye check-ups – Get your eyes tested regularly to maintain the eye health. Do not ignore the blurred vision. Take suggestion of the doctor if your spectacle needs to changed.

Manage blood pressure and diabetes– Managing blood pressure and diabetes is important to have a healthy eye. Following a good diet regime helps in the management of blood sugar level.

Family history – If you have a family history of glaucoma, discuss with your eye specialist. You may need to take extra care for your eyes.

Avoid over the counter medications – Using eye drops and medications without a prescription from the doctor can harm your eyes. Consult your doctor for any eye related problems.

Check your eye power regularly – Continuing the same spectacles even after the change in eye power may affect your eye health. Visit your eye specialist to check the eye power and change spectacle if required.

Glaucoma related vision loss can impact life by affecting our daily activities like reading, watching TV, walking. Therefore, taking necessary action in the initial stage is important.  As the vision impairment due to glaucoma is gradual, taking timely treatment without ignoring it can improve our quality of life.

By Dr. Poonam Yadav, Consultant, Ophthalmology, Columbia Asia Hospital, Sarjapur Road

About Mahender Bansal

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