Glaucoma is thought to be the third leading cause of blindness worldwide, with an estimated 4.5 million people affected globally. One of the challenges of this common eye condition is that its symptoms do not manifest immediately, but rather develop gradually over the course of several years. As a result, many patients only seek medical attention when they realise their vision is deteriorating, by which time significant damage may have already occurred.
As World Glaucoma Week begins 12 March, here we look at the different types of glaucoma, what causes glaucoma, and the treatment options available.
What are the different types of glaucoma?
Glaucoma can manifest in different forms, and treatment will depend on the specific type a patient has. The most common form of the condition is primary open-angle glaucoma. This type of the condition is caused by a blockage in the channels that drain fluid from the eyes, leading to an increase in pressure.
Acute angle-closure glaucoma is a less common type. It typically occurs in individuals with smaller eyes, where blockages are more likely to occur. It is characterised by sudden, intense symptoms that require urgent treatment. Medication to lower the pressure is typically required before surgery can be performed to correct the issue.
Secondary glaucoma is an indirect form of the condition. It can be caused by an eye injury, illness, or the use of certain medications such as steroids.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma refers to a collection of conditions that occur when the fluid within the eye fails to drain properly. The build-up of fluid leads to an increase in pressure within the eye, which can ultimately result in damage to the optic nerve, leading to vision loss.
While the precise causes of glaucoma are not yet fully understood, certain risk factors have been identified. These can include age, family history, race, and other medical conditions such as diabetes and near-sightedness. Although glaucoma can affect individuals of any age, it is most commonly observed in adults over the age of 60.
How is glaucoma treated?
It is important to understand that treatment cannot reverse any damage already caused by glaucoma. However, treatment can help prevent it from worsening and, importantly, can save you from losing your sight altogether.
Treatment for glaucoma is aimed at reducing the intraocular pressure (IOP). This is the pressure within the eye and reducing it can prevent or slow down further damage to the optic nerve. The main treatments used include eye drops and surgery.
Eye drops are often the first line of treatment for glaucoma. They work by reducing the amount of fluid that the eye produces, or by increasing the drainage of fluid from the eye. There are different types of eye drops available, and the ones used will depend on the specific type of glaucoma and the individual’s response to the medication.
Surgery may be recommended in cases where other treatments have not been effective in controlling the pressure. The most common surgical procedure for glaucoma is trabeculectomy, which involves creating a small drainage channel to help reduce IOP.
In some cases, a combination of treatments may be used to achieve the best results. Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon, Mr Shalchi will be able to advise on a surgical approach for the best results. Once your treatment plan has been organised, he will regularly monitor your eyes to ensure that the treatment is effective, and to adjust the plan if needed.
The best way to catch glaucoma early is by keeping on top of your eye health with regular check-ups. Book an eye test with Mr Zaid Shalchi today.