Vidya Nair Chaudhry seeks answers to all your glaucoma related FAQs.
What is glaucoma? How does it affect the eyes?
Glaucoma is a disease that affects the optic nerve, the nerve that is responsible for vision.
It is often associated with raised intraocular pressure (IOP) which is the pressure of the eye, independent of blood pressure.
Each eye has millions of nerves, and glaucoma causes destruction of the nerves, that first causes visual field defects, and later on affects vision per se.
What can one do to prevent vision loss in glaucoma?
Glaucoma is often diagnosed late as defective vision occurs after almost 80 per cent of the nerve fibres are lost. The problem is the nerve fibres cannot regenerate, and hence the loss is permanent.
That is why it is important to diagnose and treat glaucoma early.
Glaucoma is mostly asymptomatic. Hence, all individuals above the age of 40 should get a routine eye exam to rule out glaucoma, and glaucoma screening tests like visual field analysis if the doctor feels the need.
People with a family history of glaucoma, diabetics, high minus power glasses, and people on steroid medicines for any disease are at particularly high risk.
Can vitamin supplements and diet modifications help?
These do not help in prevention or treatment of glaucoma.
Can glaucoma be treated effectively?
Yes, especially if detected early, glaucoma progression of glaucoma can be prevented effectively with eye drops.
In late stages, surgery may be required.
At any stage, treatment can help to prevent further nerve loss and maintain what the patient has, but what is lost cannot be regained.
Can children develop glaucoma?
Yes. There are some forms of glaucoma that can occur from birth, and need to be treated immediately if vision has to be preserved.
Children may also develop glaucoma after use of steroids for diseases like nephrotic syndrome.
Glaucoma can also occur at any age after an injury to the eye or any inflammation in the eye like uveitis.
Can lasers help treat glaucoma?
A certain subset of glaucoma, called angle closure glaucoma, can be treated with a laser iridotomy.
This can, in fact, be done in the pre-glaucoma stage if the eye doctor diagnoses a risk of angle closure, and thus prevent the glaucoma from occurring altogether by timely laser.