What is the eye condition, glaucoma?
Glaucoma represents a collection of retinal diseases that have a devastating impact on vision. Glaucoma is a condition known to attack the optic nerve, a collective of thousands of nerve fibres that transfers visual information by means of electrical impulses from the eye to the brain.
What causes glaucoma?
Glaucoma is said to be the result of the accumulation of fluid in the eye, otherwise known as high intraocular pressure. Like many eye conditions, glaucoma is often hereditary, meaning that if there is a person in the family with glaucoma, it is highly likely for others in the family to inherit it. Often both eyes are affected, with one eye at times being worse than the other. Less obvious reasons for glaucoma include short and farsightedness, diabetes and hypertension, damaged blood vessels of the eye, an eye injury as a result of chemicals or blunt force trauma, eye infections or inflammation.
The most likely cause of glaucoma, however, is age. People over 40 are prone to degenerative glaucoma because as we age, our natural fluid drainage system begins to fail, and the condition progresses even further. As a result, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness, especially when a diagnosis is disregarded or not treated timeously.
Say the build-up of eye pressure is the cause of glaucoma; how does this occur?
There is a chamber at the front part of the eye between the cornea and iris, known as the anterior chamber. Through this chamber, a translucent fluid (intraocular fluid) flows through, cleansing and nourishing tissues. Intraocular fluid exits the chamber through a part of the eye called the angle, where it drains into a spongy trabecular meshwork made up of canals that further drain the fluid back into the bloodstream.
In some cases, this essential fluid does not circulate as it should and instead collects and increases intraocular pressure, which is very similar to how pumping a balloon with water functions; there is limited space and no outlet for fluid to drain properly.
How do we treat glaucoma?
Glaucoma treatment varies but includes prescription eye drops, laser procedures (Trabeculoplasty, Cyclophotocoagulation and iridotomy) or microsurgery. These procedures aim to reduce eye pressure and prevent vision loss. Depending on the eye surgery, an ophthalmologist may open the natural aqueous fluid drainage system of the eye or create a completely new drainage system.
“Vision is the true creative rhythm”
- Robert Delaunay