The term glaucoma originated from the Greek word Glaukos which refers to the bluish green hue of the affected eye. It was noted by Hippocrates as early as 400 BC in his writings. Glaucoma as we know today consists of a group of eye conditions where the optic nerve carrying the signals of eyesight to the brain becomes weak. It is associated with high eye pressure most of the time.
There are a couple of important reasons why this disease deserves an exclusive blog. Glaucoma is the leading cause of why people go blind the world over. So it needs to be treated in earnest. However, many people with glaucoma are not aware of their problem as the disease causes mild or no symptoms in the early stage. About 80 % of glaucoma is picked up only coincidentally when people come for a routine eye check up with an ophthalmologist.
A sneak peek into the disease process will make it sound simpler. Our optic nerve which carries signals from the eye to the brain is like a cable made of millions of fibers. When the eye pressure exceeds the normal range, the fibers die creating blind spots in our field of vision. These blind spots are not appreciated unless a lot of the fibers die and the center of the field is affected. However, the damaged fibers cannot be regenerated, which is why detecting glaucoma early is the key to preventing blindness.
Similar to blood pressure in our body, our eye has a pressure which depends on the circulation of a fluid called aqueous humor inside the eye. The fluid leaves the eye through a space called the angle. When this drainage system is blocked, the eye pressure increases and damages the optic nerve fibers.
Glaucoma can easily be picked up by a routine eye exam by an ophthalmologist. People more than 40 years of age, with Diabetes, hypertension, history of eye injury or eye surgery, who are using steroids regularly or have family members with glaucoma, are more likely than others to have glaucoma.
Treatment is aimed at preventing further damage. Options include eye drops, lasers and surgery.