Glaucoma: Information and Treatment Options

By: Staff
The term glaucoma is used to describe a group of diseases that affect the eye`s optic nerve and can result in eventual blindness.
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It`s believed to be caused by pressure on the eyes. More than 400,000 Canadians and 67 million others around the world suffer from the condition.

Thankfully, when patients are diagnosed early enough, they usually don`t end up with serious vision loss.
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  1. High-pressure Situation: The Causes of Glaucoma
Experts believe that glaucoma occurs when the fluid inside the eye doesnt circulate the way it should, resulting in a buildup of pressure.

The causes for this halt in circulation usually originate from a blockage in the channel that allows fluid to flow in and out of the eye.

This may be due to a genetic defect. Its been shown that glaucoma runs in families. Glaucoma sometimes has other causes, such as an eye injury, infection or an inflammatory problem.
  1. Painful Vision: What are the Symptoms of Glaucoma?
One of the scariest things about glaucoma is that it often doesnt cause symptoms. This is why Canadian doctors recommend getting eye exams every year or two.

Many people avoid the eye doctor until they start having symptoms, and by then, it might be too late for effective treatment. In some cases, glaucoma does cause symptoms. These might include:
  • A loss of peripheral vision.
  • Sudden eye pain or blurred vision.
  • The appearance of halos when viewing light sources.
  • Redness or a hazy look in the eyes.
  • Nausea or vomiting.
  • Tunnel vision or other visual disturbances.
  1. The Two Types of Glaucoma: Open-angle and Angle-closure
A variety of eye diseases fall under the umbrella of glaucoma. However, there are two types that are most common.
  • Open-angle Glaucoma This is the most common type of glaucoma. Its caused by the lack of circulation mentioned in the above section. With this type, the channel itself isnt blocked, but the fluid still doesnt flow normally for unknown reasons.
  • Angle-closure Glaucoma This type is caused by a narrow angle between the cornea and the iris, which chokes fluid drainage and circulation.
  1. Finding Out: How Glaucoma is Diagnosed
Glaucoma must be diagnosed by an eye doctor. The process involves a few steps. First, youll likely be given a visual acuity test.

This is a basic eye exam that will check how well you read at various distances. Youll also be given a test that will check your peripheral vision.

This is important. Peripheral vision loss is a major sign of the disease. If your doctor sees reason to be suspicious of glaucoma, the next step will be a physical examination of your eyes.

Eyedrops will be used to dilate your pupils prior to the examination. Your doctor will look at the optic nerve and see if it displays signs of glaucoma.

A test to check for eye pressure will also be done. Another test, known as a pachymetry, is sometimes done.

This test measures the thickness of your cornea and will help your doctor determine the nature and cause of your type of glaucoma. If youre avoiding seeing the eye doctor because youre nervous about the tests, dont worry.

A lot of people have difficulty allowing someone to check their eyes, but the tests shouldnt cause you any pain or discomfort.
  1. Statistics: The Likeliness that Youll Get Glaucoma
It has been discovered that people of Hispanic, Japanese, Irish, Russian, African-American, Inuit and Scandinavian descent are more likely to get the disease.

It usually shows up in people over the age of 40 but can happen to anyone, children included. A history of poor vision or diabetes may increase your risk for glaucoma. The same goes for long-term use of certain medications, such as steroids.

More research is needed to discover the exact connections between these things.
  1. Glaucoma Treatment: Getting it Taken Care Of
  • Surgery If blockage of the channel is contributing to a lack of fluid circulation in your case of glaucoma, your doctor might choose to surgically create a new channel to release the pressure. This procedure is called a trabeculectomy.

    Tubes are sometimes inserted to help with this process.
  • Laser Surgery Much like traditional or microsurgery, laser surgery is used to increase the circulation of eye fluid.

    Its typically used for open-angle glaucoma but can also reduce fluid blockage and buildup in angle-closure glaucoma.

    A trabeculoplasty is used to open a drainage area.

    Other options for laser surgery include cyclophotocoagulation, which reduces fluid production, or an iridotomy, which increases fluid circulation.
  • Eye Drops Eye drops are sometimes used in addition to surgeries to help promote circulation and reduce the amount of fluid that forms, therefore reducing pressure build up.
  • Medical Cannabis You may have heard that medical cannabis is sometimes used by glaucoma patients.

    This is because its been shown to temporarily relieve pressure in the eyes. It cant cure glaucoma like some claim, but it can provide some relief.

    However, many choose to avoid this option due to cannabiss psychoactive effects. If you already use cannabis or are interested in how it could possibly affect your glaucoma, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
In most cases, a variety of surgery and eyedrops are used to treat glaucoma. Its rare that a single treatment works to cure the disorder, and sometimes, additional surgeries or treatments are needed.

While American doctors tend to begin with medications and graduate to surgery from there, more Canadian doctors are starting with surgery right away.

This is because evidence is suggesting that getting surgery early could greatly improve the odds that the disease wont eventually cause vision loss.

For more information about glaucoma and possible treatment options, you can visit the Glaucoma Research Society of Canada. Since 1989, theyve helped to raise over two million dollars for the research of glaucoma.
This article, and the products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please see your health care provider before taking any supplements or starting a new program.

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