Glaucoma is an umbrella term for a group of eye diseases characterised by damage to the optic nerve, resulting in irreversible vision loss and even blindness. It is commonly linked to a build-up of the fluid in the eye, which causes an increased eye pressure that leads to gradual damage to the optic nerve. Glaucoma is dubbed as the “silent thief of sight” as it is usually asymptomatic. Many individuals do not know they have glaucoma until the condition has progressed to a later stage in which vision loss is irreversible.
This is the reason why routine eye screening is important, especially as one ages or if one has a family history of glaucoma. It allows the ophthalmologist to detect early signs of glaucoma and address it, thus slowing the progression of the disease and preserving vision. Once diagnosed, treatment options for glaucoma include:
- Eye drops – This is the primary treatment for glaucoma, which uses special prescription eye drops to decrease intraocular eye pressure by either reducing the production of fluid in the eye or by increasing the fluid’s drainage. The type of the eye drops prescribed will depend on type and severity of the glaucoma.
- Oral medication – Similarly, prostaglandins, beta blockers or carbonic anhydrase inhibitors may be prescribed to reduce fluid production or increase fluid outflow to reduce intraocular pressure. It may be given alongside eye drops, or when the case is more severe and eye drops prove to be ineffective.
- Laser therapy – This procedure is designed to do two things: prevent fluid blockage for those with closed-angle glaucoma, and facilitate fluid drainage for those with open-angle glaucoma. This can be done by trabeculoplasty, which widens the drainage site; or iridotomy, which creates a small incision on the iris to facilitate drainage.
- Surgery – Traditional and minimally invasive procedures are recommended if medications and laser therapies are not able to improve symptoms. The most common procedures to address glaucoma are trabeculectomy, which creates a new drainage channel for eye fluid to flow out; and tube shunt surgery, which keeps drainage sites open using a small tube.
Overall, people experiencing symptoms such as peripheral vision loss, blurred vision, or eye pain, should arrange for a glaucoma screening. This is particularly so if they are over 40 years old or have with a family history of glaucoma. For personalised advice on the timing and frequency of glaucoma screenings, visit an ophthalmologist today.