What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma is an eye disorder where the optic nerve suffers progressive damage. The optic nerve links the eye to the brain and gives the sense of vision. Contrary to what many people believe glaucoma is NOT identical to ‘increased eye pressure’ because many people who have high blood pressure will never get glaucoma but several people with normal eye pressure could develop a serious case of glaucoma. High blood pressure is nonetheless a very important marker for glaucoma diagnosis and follow-up. Only an eye doctor exam and frequent follow-up may help proper glaucoma diagnosis.
What are the symptoms of glaucoma?
Unfortunately there are no symptoms to glaucoma unless it is so advanced that the patients themselves realize that their visual impairment is considerable, in one or both their eyes. There are only very few exceptions which regard some rare glaucoma types. Contrary to what people think, glaucoma hardly causes pain in the eyes or headaches. There is loss of peripheral vision first in glaucoma; central vision is the last to go. For over 90% of glaucoma patients diagnosis is purely accidental.
Who is at risk to develop glaucoma?
Glaucoma is quite more frequent for people who are over 40 years old. Approximately 3% of the Greek population either has or will develop glaucoma. People who are related to glaucoma patients are running a higher risk as it is partially hereditary. Moreover increased risk potential glaucoma patients are people who are severely short-sighted, or diabetic patients, those who have been getting cortisone as long term treatment for any reason whatsoever and some races are also more prone than others (e. g black people).
How can glaucoma be diagnosed?
A complete eye check is necessary for proper glaucoma diagnosis, especially an exam of the optic nerve and its state. In marginal cases more specific optic nerve imaging exams may be needed, such as optic nerve tomography. In any case it is important to take a picture of the optic nerve so as to monitor the progress of the disease. Visual field checks are a way to check peripheral vision in each eye; they constitute an important tool in helping determine the extent of the damage as well as the extent to which patient responds to treatment.
What is the most contemporary glaucoma treatment?
Regardless of its hetiology, today the only way to treat glaucoma is to bring the eye pressure down so as to stop any additional damage to the optic nerve. There are three different ways to do this:
• Daily use of eye drops
• Laser therapy
• And should the aforementioned two ways not help get eye pressure down to a satisfactory extent and if there is still progressive nerve damage, then surgery may become imperative.