If I told you that a thief could be visiting your place soon, wouldn’t you take some proactive measures? Of course, many will take measures of prevention. What if I told you that something could be gradually stealing your sight or that of any of your loved ones? It will be ignorant to just say, ‘God forbid!’ but do nothing.
Glaucoma is the ‘thief of sight’. You will get to know what this means and why you should care. As Humans, in our very healthy state we all have five functional senses:
- ? Our eyes for seeing
- ? Our tongues for tasting
- ?Our noses for smelling
- ?Our ears for hearing
- ? Our skin to touch
Even though our body functions as a whole, by far the most important organs of sense are our eyes. We recognize up to 80 percent of all sensations using our sight. If in any case, other senses like taste or smell fail, the eyes mostly help us avoid danger.
That the sense of sight is extremely important is not debatable. Most times, the eyes play some major role before their senses start to compliment the sight. For some of us here, it may have been love at first sight! The gestures, expressions, etc are noticed before the smell, touch, etc. After sight, other senses will help you appreciate more.
Any condition that could rob of this superb sense of sight is dangerous. It even becomes overly dangerous if it steals sight without warning. Glaucoma is one such eye condition.
I came across a gofundme campaign for a fellow Nigerian who lost his sight to glaucoma. If indeed it’s glaucoma, any mount raised will only be able to support him and his family. Unfortunately, there is no cure for glaucoma
You can visit gofundme to help
What is Glaucoma?
At the back of the eye, inside the eyeball is a part called the optic nerve. It is through these nerves that visual information is transmitted from the eyes to the brain. Glaucoma is an eye disease or group of conditions that affect this optic nerve.
It occurs when the fluid in the eyes builds up and adds pressure to the optic nerve thereby causing damage. This will eventually lead to loss of vision if not timely and appropriately managed by an eyecare professional. Glaucoma is referred to as the ‘thief of sight’ because these changes can take place with unnoticeable symptoms.
Getting regular eye exams cannot be overemphasized. A comprehensive eye exam can help detect or rule out Glaucoma when you visit your optometrist or optician as they are called in the UK. Good to note that there are 3 main types of eye specialists you should know- Optician, Optometrist, and Ophthalmologist which I have written about before. If you wish to learn more, read Who Do I See: An Optician, Optometrist, or Ophthalmologist?
How is glaucoma detected?
As part of a comprehensive eye exam, your optometrist or ophthalmologist amongst any other relevant test will check your intraocular pressure (IOP). Advancement in technology has made this procedure very patient-friendly. For instance, a puff air tonometer enables the doctor to take a non-contact measurement of your IOP – if high, is a sign of Glaucoma.
Another important procedure is a visual field test. This is simply to check how wide your side vision is when you maintain focus on a point. This procedure helps the eyecare professional determine how much vision you have or may have lost. The visual field test is very important as it helps determine if you have blind spots – called scotoma, in your vision. The eye doctor will be able to know if you have any side vision loss due to glaucoma.
If you have a limited visual field, it becomes dangerous for you to drive.
What are the types of Glaucoma?
Glaucoma has two main types, primary open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma (sometimes called “closed-angle glaucoma” or “narrow-angle glaucoma”)
Primary open-angle glaucoma
This is typically the so-called thief of sight and the most common type of glaucoma. It usually causes no pain nor shows any vision changes when it starts to develop. This type of glaucoma gradually causes damage to the optic nerve as fluid is gradually built in the eyes due to improper drainage. Different people have different levels of sensitivity to normal eye pressure. This means the risks are different. The best precaution is to have regular eye exams for early detection. This is particularly very important because glaucoma can be managed when detected early but any vision lost cannot be corrected.
This type of glaucoma, unlike the former, occurs as a sudden attack. It happens when the drainage angle in the eye gets completely blocked leading to a quick rise in intraocular pressure. It is quite acute and a real emergency requiring you to see an Ophthalmologist immediately. Some signs of an acute angle-closure glaucoma attack include:
- Sudden blurry vision
- Severe eye pain
- Rainbow-colored rings or halos around lights
What are my chances of getting glaucoma?
Even though some people have a higher risk for glaucoma, anyone can get it. Your chances of getting glaucoma are higher if you:
- Are over age 60
- Are African American or Hispanic/Latino and over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
- Have conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- You regularly use certain medications, including steroids
- You have an eye injury or trauma
- You have thin corneas (the clear layer in front of your pupils)
- You are highly nearsighted or farsighted
Don’t forget to note that glaucoma will mostly come with no symptoms until damage set in. The only dependable option is to get periodic eye exams. This eye exam should be comprehensive and include a dilated eye exam.
What are the treatment options for glaucoma?
There are few treatment options for glaucoma. These are mostly management and to prevent damage or further damage to the optic nerve. The treatment options for glaucoma include the use of medicines (inform of eye drops), laser treatment, and surgery.
You must start immediate treatment if you have glaucoma. Though this will not retrieve any lost vision treatment will stop further damage to your vision. Your optometrist will usually recommend eye drops to help lower eye pressure and prevent complete damage to your optic nerve.
Your ophthalmologist can use Laser treatment to help reduce the fluid in your eye. It is not as scary as it sounds and you can leave the hospital the same day! Surgery is mostly a last resort when eye drops and laser treatment wouldn’t help as expected.
You will require a lifetime eye health management plan and commitment to protecting your vision if you are diagnosed with glaucoma. The need for early detection during regular comprehensive eye exams is vital. It remains the only way to preventing glaucoma progression.
Protect yourself and your loved ones, and please book an exam today.
Wrapping it up
Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of irreversible blindness. But blindness from glaucoma can often be prevented with early treatment if detected early or damage limited. This can most often be detected only through regular comprehensive eye exams.
Finally, according to National Eye Institute, remember these five things you must know about glaucoma:
- Glaucoma can cause vision loss and blindness, which can’t be reversed.
- There are no early symptoms
- In the United States alone, half the people who have glaucoma don’t know they do.
- Some people are at higher risk than others
- There is only one way to know if you have glaucoma
It is worth noting that the chances of getting glaucoma are 10 times higher than someone with no glaucoma history in their close family environment. World Glaucoma Week– a global initiative of the World Glaucoma Association (WGA) to raise awareness on glaucoma, comes up from the 7th of March to the 13th. The 2021 theme reflects the hope that with regular testing, people continue to see the world around us: full of beauty, charm, and adventure.
The world is bright, save your sight! See your optometrist today.
- Optic Nerve – Healthline.com
- Why Good Vision Is So Important – Ziess.com
- Visual Field Testing – American Optometry Association
- What is Glaucoma – American Optometry Association
- Eye Diseases and Conditions- Glaucoma – National eye Institue
- Glaucoma – All About Vision
- YouTube – What is glaucoma?
- YouTube – What is Glaucoma – What Causes Glaucoma (Simple Answer)