Glaucoma: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

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Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that can damage the optic nerve, leading to vision loss or blindness. It is often associated with increased intraocular pressure (IOP), but glaucoma can also occur with normal or low IOP.

Symptoms of Glaucoma:

  • Open-Angle Glaucoma (Chronic Glaucoma):

    • Typically progresses slowly with no noticeable symptoms in the early stages.

    • Vision loss starts with peripheral or side vision.

    • As it advances, central vision may also be affected.

    • Often referred to as the "silent thief of sight" because it can cause significant damage before symptoms are noticed.

  • Angle-Closure Glaucoma (Acute Glaucoma):

    • Sudden and severe symptoms may include intense eye pain, headache, nausea, vomiting, and blurry vision.

    • Halos around lights.

    • Rapid decrease in vision.

  • Normal-Tension Glaucoma:

    • Similar to open-angle glaucoma but occurs with normal intraocular pressure.

    • Vision loss without noticeable symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage.

Causes of Glaucoma:

  • Increased Intraocular Pressure (IOP): Elevated IOP is a significant risk factor for glaucoma, but not all glaucoma cases are associated with high IOP.

  • Optic Nerve Damage: Glaucoma primarily damages the optic nerve, which is responsible for transmitting visual information from the eye to the brain.

  • Other Risk Factors: Various factors can increase the risk of developing glaucoma, including age (it's more common in older adults), family history, race, and certain medical conditions like diabetes.

Treatments for Glaucoma:

The goal of glaucoma treatment is to reduce intraocular pressure and prevent further optic nerve damage. The treatment approach may vary depending on the type and severity of glaucoma. Common treatments include:

  • Medications: Eye drops or oral medications can help lower intraocular pressure. These medications may either reduce the production of aqueous humor (the fluid inside the eye) or increase its drainage.

  • Laser Therapy: Several laser procedures can be used to treat glaucoma:

    • Laser Trabeculoplasty: Helps increase drainage of fluid from the eye.

    • Laser Peripheral Iridotomy: Used for angle-closure glaucoma to create a hole in the iris to improve fluid flow.

  • Surgery: In cases where medications and laser therapy are ineffective, surgical options may be considered. Some common surgical procedures include:

    • Trabeculectomy: A surgical creation of a new drainage channel for aqueous humor.

    • Minimally Invasive Glaucoma Surgery (MIGS): Various MIGS procedures are less invasive than traditional surgeries and may be used earlier in the disease.

  • Ongoing Monitoring: Regular eye examinations are essential to monitor the progression of glaucoma and adjust treatment as needed.

It's crucial for individuals with glaucoma or those at risk of developing it to have regular eye exams to detect the condition early when treatment is most effective. Early detection and proper management can help preserve vision and prevent further vision loss. Please consult an eye care professional for a personalized evaluation and treatment plan if you suspect you may have glaucoma or are at risk.

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