Medical Q&As

Glaucoma - varieties and treatment?

I have glaucoma. Can you explain what this means and is there any treatment available to repair the damage?

Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that result in loss of vision due to raised pressure within the eyeball. The eyeball is a fluid containing sphere and if the pressure within that sphere rises it can result in pressure on the optic nerve and retina. The retina is the light sensitive area at the back of the eye and the optic nerve can be compared to an electric cable that conducts the tiny electrical impulses that are generated within the retina. These impulses are conducted to the occipital cortex, which is the area in the back of the brain where the electrical impulses are transformed into that sensory experience that we know as sight. The commonest form of glaucoma is known as primary or open angle glaucoma. In this condition the drainage canals within the eye become blocked, however the entrance to the drainage system is open. It has been compared to a blockage in a domestic sink where the plughole is open but the kitchen drain is clogged. The loss of vision in open angle glaucoma is slow and insidious and may not be noticed until a significant degree of vision has been lost. It is treated with drops and medication. Acute glaucoma presents suddenly and the affected person may experience significant pain in the eye associated with a marked reduction in eyesight. They may also experience severe headache. This form of glaucoma has been compared to a sink blockage where the actual plughole is covered. Such cases are often treated surgically in order to open the entrance to the drainage canals thereby permitting the free flow of fluid through the system resulting in a reduction in pressure in the eye. Sometimes glaucoma can occur as a result of other conditions such as trauma to the eye, inflammation within the eye, advanced cataracts or advanced diabetes. All of the treatments for glaucoma are aimed at reducing the pressure within the eye thereby preventing further loss of sight. It is important to stress that treatment cannot restore the sight that has been lost. Therefore it is important that in the particular case of open angle glaucoma that the diagnosis is made early and treatment is commenced without delay.