WHAT IS GLAUCOMA?
Glaucoma is a serious eye disease and one of the leading causes of blindness around the world today. In glaucoma, the loss of vision is due to destruction of the optic nerve, a structure located in the back of the eye that conducts images to the brain. The optic nerve can be likened to an electrical cord made up of numerous wires – the nerve fibres. In glaucoma, these nerve fibres are destroyed, and can no longer carry the images to the brain. In this situation, asymptomatic scotomas appear (islets of vision loss in the visual field), with gradual loss of vision as the disease progresses.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
In general, patients with glaucoma only realize they have a problem when the disease is at an advanced stage, and they already haves residual vision (tunnel vision). If left untreated, the disease will progress, resulting in total loss of vision (without light protection).
HOW IS IT DIAGNOSED?
The best way to detect glaucoma is through regular check-ups with an ophthalmologist. During the check-up, the doctor will perform a detailed examination that includes:
- Ocular tension medication (tonometry)
- Evaluation of the aqueous humor pathways (gonioscopy)
- Evaluation of possible destruction of the optic nerve (ophthalmoscopy)
- Evaluation of the visual field in each eye (perimetry)
Depending on the patient’s condition, the ophthalmologist will decide which tests to perform, and how often these tests should be repeated.
Medical Tratment: Administration of medication (eye drops) to normalize eye strain.
Laser Treatment: Laser surgery is usually used when medication cannot control the eye strain. This will unblock the channels though which intraocular fluid flows, in the case of open-angle glaucoma – a procedure known as trabeculoplasty – or open up communications at the base of the iris in the case of closed-angle glaucoma – a procedure called iridotomy.
Surgery: Surgery is generally reserved for cases where the condition cannot be controlled through medication or laser treatment. In these cases the ophthalmologist also opens channels for the flow of intraocular fluid, to reduce ocular tension and control the disease progression.