What is glaucoma?
Glaucoma affects over 1 million people in Spain and includes a group of neurodegenerative diseases that cause progressive, irreversible damage to the optic nerve. This structure is key for vision, as it transmits the nerve impulses from the eye (more specifically from the retina) to the brain so that it can interpret them and you can see the images. As a result of the progressive loss of optic nerve fibres, the visual field is gradually reduced and can result in blindness if the disease is not slowed down.
There are several types of glaucoma, which are primarily grouped into open-angle glaucoma (the most common, accounting for 90% of all cases) and closed-angle glaucoma, depending on the opening of the angle of the eye where the structures involved in the disease are located.
Glaucoma can also be classified according to its time of appearance (congenital, childhood, juvenile or adult) and its origins, which might be primary or secondary to other ocular processes or systematic diseases, such as diabetes.
Glaucoma is a silent disease –50% of patients do not know they have it– because, in most cases, it has no evident symptoms and goes unnoticed until there is significant damage. This is because it often progresses slowly and initially affects the outside of the visual field, not reaching the centre of the image until late stages and causing a significant loss. To avoid reaching these severe stages that make independence in everyday life difficult, early diagnosis during regular eye check ups is essential.
A good ophthalmological control can also avoid severe attacks of glaucoma, which might sometimes occur and are extremely painful, as well as causing a sudden decrease in vision, red eye, halos and dazzle, nausea and vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, you must see the specialist urgently.
The risk of glaucoma increases if any of the following factors apply:
- High eye pressure
- Over the age of 40 or, above all, 60
- Relatives with glaucoma
- High myopia or severe hyperopia
- Eye diseases such as uveitis or diabetic retinopahy
- Eye trauma
- Prolonged treatments with corticosteroids
- Black and Asian people
Ocular hypertension, the only modifiable factor that can be controlled with treatment, is the main trigger of glaucoma. When the aqueous humour (fluid in which the eye structures are bathed) does not drain correctly and accumulated inside the eye, this applies too much pressure on the optic nerve and ends up damaging it.
However, it is possible to have high intraocular pressure and not suffer from glaucoma or, on the contrary, have normal values and still develop the disease. Glaucoma is, at the end of the day, a multi-factor disease that goes beyond a fault in the eye’s drainage system and the source of which is still relatively unknown. Thanks to the latest research, we are learning more and more about its possible relationship to vascular problems in some cases.
Particularly if you have a risk factor, it is important to have an annual check up with the ophthalmologist to detect and treat the disease in time. Despite it being a potentially serious disease, we now have safe, effective treatments that are available at the Miranza clinics, personalised to suit your type of glaucoma, degree of evolution, ocular characteristics, etc.
The goal is to keep intraocular pressure at suitable values so that the optic nerve is not damaged, either through medication, laser procedures in the consulting room or different surgical techniques. This will not recover any lost vision, but it will help slow down and even stop the progress of this chronic disease, thus avoiding even greater eyesight impairment.